Analysis of the binding loops configuration and surface adaptation of different crystallized single‐domain antibodies in response to various antigens

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Monoclonal antibodies have revolutionized the biomedical field through their ubiquitous utilization in different diagnostics and therapeutic applications. Despite this widespread use, their large size and structural complexity have limited their versatility in specific applications. The antibody variable region that is responsible for binding antigen is embodied within domains that can be rescued individually as single-domain antibody (sdAb) fragments. Because of the unique characteristics of sdAbs, such as low molecular weight, high physicochemical stability, and the ability to bind antigens inaccessible to conventional antibodies, they represent a viable alternative to full-length antibodies. Consequently, 149 crystal structures of sdAbs, originating from human (VH), camelids (VHH), or sharks (VNAR), were retrieved from the Protein Data Bank, and their structures were compared. The 3 types of sdAbs displayed complementarity determining regions (CDRs) with different lengths and configurations. CDR3 of the VHH and VNAR domains were dominated by pleated and extended orientations, respectively. Although VNAR showed the smallest average molecular weight and molecular surface area compared with VHH and VH antibodies. However, the solvent accessible surface area measurements of the 3 tested sdAbs types were very similar. All the antihapten VHH antibodies showed pleated CDR3, which were sufficient to create a binding pocket to accommodate haptens (methotrexate and azo dyes) in terms of shape and electrostatic potential. The sdAbs that recognized lysozyme showed more diversity in their CDR3 orientation to enable them to recognize various topographies of lysozyme. Subsequently, the three sdAb classes were different in size and surface area and have shown distinguishable ability to optimize their CDR length and orientation to recognize different antigen classes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2592
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Recognition
Issue number4
Early online date16 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2017


  • monoclonal antibodies
  • single-domain antibody (sdAb)
  • antigens

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