Optimizing Intracellular Antibodies (intrabodies/nanobodies) to Treat Neurodegenerative Disorders

Neurobiol Dis. 2020 Feb;134:104619. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2019.104619. Epub 2019 Oct 25.


Intrabodies (both single-chain Fv and single-domain VH, VHH, and VL nanobodies) offer unique solutions to some of the challenges of delivery and target engagement posed by immunotherapeutics for the brain and other areas of the nervous system. The specificity, which includes the recognition of post-translational modifications, and capacity for engineering that characterize these antibody fragments can be especially well-focused when the genes encoding only the binding sites of the antibody are expressed intracellularly. Multifunctional constructs use fusions with peptides that can re-target antigen-antibody complexes to enhance both pharmacodynamic activity and intracellular solubility simultaneously. Fusions with proteolytic targeting signals, such as the PEST degron, greatly enhance potency in some cases. Stem cell transplants can be protected from exogenous misfolded proteins by stable transfection with intrabodies. Tandem expression to target two or more misfolding proteins in one treatment may be especially valuable for proteostatic disruptions due to genetic, aging, or toxic triggers. Advances in bioinformatics, screening protocols, and especially gene therapy are showing great promise for intrabody/ nanobody treatments of a full range of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease and related tau dementias, Parkinson's disease and Lewy body diseases, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and prion diseases, among others.

Keywords: Alpha-synuclein; Gene therapy; Immunotherapy; Intrabody; Lewy body; Nanobody; Polyglutamine huntingtin; TDP43; scFv.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural