Single-chain Fv/folate conjugates mediate efficient lysis of folate-receptor-positive tumor cells

Bioconjug Chem. May-Jun 1997;8(3):338-46. doi: 10.1021/bc9700244.


Bispecific antibodies that bind to a tumor antigen and the T cell receptor (TCR) redirect cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) to lyse tumor cells which have escaped normal immune recognition mechanisms. One well-characterized tumor antigen, the folate receptor (FR), is expressed on most ovarian carcinomas and some types of brain cancer. Recently, it was shown that conjugates of folate and anti-TCR antibodies are extremely potent bispecific agents that target tumor cells expressing the high-affinity folate receptor, but not normal cells expressing only the reduced folate carrier protein. In this paper, it is shown that the size of these conjugates can be reduced to the smallest bispecific agent yet described (30 kDa) by attaching folate to a single-chain antibody, scFv, of the anti-TCR antibody KJ16. The scFv/folate conjugates are as effective as IgG/folate conjugates in mediating lysis of FR4 tumor cells by CTL. The optimal folate density was in the range of 5-15 folate molecules per scFv or IgG molecule, which yielded half-maximal lysis values (EC50) of approximately 40 pM (1.2 ng/mL for scFv). Finally, the scFv/folate conjugates could efficiently target tumor cells even in the presence of free folic acid at concentrations that are normally found in serum. Compared to conventional bispecific antibodies, the small size of scFv/folate conjugates may prove advantageous in the ability to penetrate tumors and in reduced immunogenicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bispecific / pharmacology*
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology*
  • Carrier Proteins / analysis*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Folate Receptors, GPI-Anchored
  • Folic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology


  • Antibodies, Bispecific
  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Folate Receptors, GPI-Anchored
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • immunoglobulin Fv
  • Folic Acid