Translating the Concept of Bispecific Antibodies to Engineering Heterodimeric Phosphotriesterases with Broad Organophosphate Substrate Recognition

Biochemistry. 2020 Nov 17;59(45):4395-4406. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.0c00751. Epub 2020 Nov 4.


We have adopted the concept of bispecific antibodies, which can simultaneously block or cross-link two different biomolecular targets, to create bispecific enzymes by exploiting the homodimeric quaternary structure of bacterial phosphotriesterases (PTEs). The PTEs from Brevundimonas diminuta and Agrobacterium radiobacter, whose engineered variants can efficiently hydrolyze organophosphorus (OP) nerve agents and pesticides, respectively, have attracted considerable interest for the treatment of the corresponding intoxications. OP nerve agents and pesticides still pose a severe toxicological threat in military conflicts, including acts of terrorism, as well as in agriculture, leading to >100000 deaths per year. In principle, engineered conventional homodimeric PTEs may provoke hydrolytic inactivation of individual OPs in vivo, and their application as catalytic bioscavengers via administration into the bloodstream has been proposed. However, their narrow substrate specificity would necessitate therapeutic application of a set or mixture of different enzymes, which complicates biopharmaceutical development. We succeeded in combining subunits from both enzymes and to stabilize their heterodimerization by rationally designing electrostatic steering mutations, thus breaking the natural C2 symmetry. The resulting bispecific enzyme from two PTEs with different bacterial origin exhibits an ultrabroad OP substrate profile and allows the efficient detoxification of both nerve agents and pesticides. Our approach of combining two active sites with distinct substrate specificities within one artificial dimeric biocatalyst-retaining the size and general properties of the original enzyme without utilizing protein mixtures or much larger fusion proteins-not only should facilitate biological drug development but also may be applicable to oligomeric enzymes with other catalytic activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bispecific / immunology*
  • Catalytic Domain
  • Organophosphates / metabolism*
  • Phosphoric Triester Hydrolases / chemistry*
  • Phosphoric Triester Hydrolases / genetics*
  • Phosphoric Triester Hydrolases / immunology
  • Phosphoric Triester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Protein Engineering*
  • Protein Multimerization*
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Static Electricity


  • Antibodies, Bispecific
  • Organophosphates
  • Phosphoric Triester Hydrolases