Covalent Immune Proximity-Induction Strategy Using SuFEx-Engineered Bifunctional Viral Peptides Academic Article uri icon

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  • Covalent antibody recruiting molecules (cARMs) constitute a proximity-inducing chemical strategy to modulate the recognition and elimination of cancer cells by the immune system. Recognition is achieved through synthetic bifunctional molecules that use covalency to stably bridge endogenous hapten-specific antibodies like anti-dinitrophenyl (anti-DNP), with tumor antigens on cancer cell surfaces. To recruit these antibodies, cARMs are equipped with the native hapten-binding molecule. The majority of cancer-killing immune machinery, however, recognizes epitopes on protein ligands and not small molecule haptens (e.g., Fc receptors, pathogen-specific antibodies). To access this broader class of immune machinery for recruitment, we developed a covalent immune proximity-inducing strategy. This strategy uses synthetic bifunctional electrophilic peptides derived from the native protein ligand. These bifunctional peptides are engineered to contain both a tumor-targeting molecule and a sulfonyl (VI) fluoride exchange (SuFEx) electrophile. As a proof of concept, we synthesized bifunctional electrophilic peptides derived from glycoprotein D (gD) on herpes simplex virus (HSV), to recruit gD-specific serum anti-HSV antibodies to cancer cells expressing the prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). We demonstrate that serum anti-HSV antibodies can be selectively and irreversibly targeted by these electrophilic peptides and that the reaction rate can be uniquely enhanced by tuning SuFEx chemistry without a loss in selectivity. In cellular assays, electrophilic peptides demonstrated enhanced anti-tumor immunotherapeutic efficacy compared to analogous peptides lacking electrophilic functionality. This enhanced efficacy was especially prominent in the context of (a) natural anti-HSV antibodies isolated from human serum and (b) harder to treat tumor cells associated with lower PSMA expression levels. Overall, we demonstrate a new covalent peptide-based approach to immune proximity induction and reveal the potential utility of anti-viral antibodies in synthetic tumor immunotherapy.


  • McCann, Harrison M
  • Lake, Benjamin PM
  • Hoffman, Kyle S
  • Davola, Maria E
  • Mossman, Karen L
  • Rullo, Anthony

publication date

  • May 20, 2022