Antibody-peptide conjugates deliver covalent inhibitors blocking oncogenic cathepsins

Nat Chem Biol. 2024 May 29. doi: 10.1038/s41589-024-01627-z. Online ahead of print.


Cysteine cathepsins are a family of proteases that are relevant therapeutic targets for the treatment of different cancers and other diseases. However, no clinically approved drugs for these proteins exist, as their systemic inhibition can induce deleterious side effects. To address this problem, we developed a modular antibody-based platform for targeted drug delivery by conjugating non-natural peptide inhibitors (NNPIs) to antibodies. NNPIs were functionalized with reactive warheads for covalent inhibition, optimized with deep saturation mutagenesis and conjugated to antibodies to enable cell-type-specific delivery. Our antibody-peptide inhibitor conjugates specifically blocked the activity of cathepsins in different cancer cells, as well as osteoclasts, and showed therapeutic efficacy in vitro and in vivo. Overall, our approach allows for the rapid design of selective cathepsin inhibitors and can be generalized to inhibit a broad class of proteases in cancer and other diseases.