Synthetic binding proteins are human-made binding proteins that use non-antibody proteins as the starting scaffold. Molecular display technologies, such as phage display, enable the construction of large combinatorial libraries and their efficient sorting and, thus, are crucial for the development of synthetic binding proteins. Monobodies are the founding system of a set of synthetic binding proteins based on the fibronectin type III (FN3) domain. Since the original report in 1998, the monobody and related FN3-based systems have steadily been refined, and current methods are capable of rapidly generating potent and selective binding molecules to even challenging targets. The FN3 domain is small (∼90 amino acids) and autonomous and is structurally similar to the conventional immunoglobulin (Ig) domain. Unlike the Ig domain, however, the FN3 lacks a disulfide bond but is highly stable. These attributes of FN3 present unique opportunities and challenges in the design of phage and other display systems, combinatorial libraries, and library sorting strategies. This article reviews key technological innovations in the establishment of our monobody development pipeline, with an emphasis on phage display methodology. These give insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying molecular display technologies and protein-protein interactions, which should be broadly applicable to diverse systems intended for generating high-performance binding proteins.
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