In-Depth Structure and Function Characterization of Heterogeneous Interchain Cysteine-Conjugated Antibody-Drug Conjugates

ACS Pharmacol Transl Sci. 2023 Dec 12;7(1):212-221. doi: 10.1021/acsptsci.3c00235. eCollection 2024 Jan 12.


Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), integrating high specificity of antigen-targeting antibodies and high potency of cell-killing chemical drugs, have become one of the most rapidly expanding therapeutic biologics in oncology. Although ADCs were widely studied from multiple aspects, overall structural elucidation with comprehensive understanding of variants is scarcely reported. Here, for the first time, we present a holistic and in-depth characterization of an interchain cysteine-conjugated ADC, focusing on conjugation and charge heterogeneity, and in vitro biological activities. Conjugation mapping utilized a bottom-up approach, unraveled positional isomer composition, provided insights into the conjugation process, and elucidated how conjugation affects the physicochemical and biological properties of an ADC. Charge profiling combined bottom-up and top-down approaches to interrogate the origin of charge heterogeneity, its impact on function, and best practice for characterization. Specifically, we pioneered the utilization of capillary isoelectric focusing-mass spectrometry to decode not only critical post-translational modifications but also drug load and positional isomer distribution. The study design provides general guidance for in-depth characterization of ADCs, and the analytical findings in turn benefit the discovery and development of future ADCs.