Protease-stable DARPins as promising oral therapeutics. Academic Article uri icon


  • Clostridioides difficile is an enteric bacterium whose exotoxins, TcdA and TcdB, inactivate small GTPases within the host cells, leading to bloody diarrhea. In prior work, our group engineered a panel of potent TcdB-neutralizing designed ankyrin repeat proteins (DARPin) as oral therapeutics against C. difficile infection. However, all these DARPins are highly susceptible to digestion by gut-resident proteases, i.e. trypsin and chymotrypsin. Close evaluation of the protein sequence revealed a large abundance of positively charged and aromatic residues in the DARPin scaffold. In this study, we significantly improved the protease stability of one of the DARPins, 1.4E, via protein engineering. Unlike 1.4E, whose anti-TcdB EC50 increased >83-fold after 1-hour incubation with trypsin (1mg/ml) or chymotrypsin (0.5mg/ml), the best progenies-T10-2 and T10b-exhibit similar anti-TcdB potency as their parent in PBS regardless of protease treatment. The superior protease stability of T10-2 and T10b is attributed to the removal of nearly all positively charged and aromatic residues except those directly engaged in target binding. Furthermore, T10-2 was found to retain significant toxin-neutralization ability in ex vivo cecum fluid and can be easily detected in mouse fecal samples upon oral administration. Both T10-2 and T10b enjoy a high thermo- and chemo-stability and can be expressed very efficiently in Escherichia coli (>100mg/l in shaker flasks). We believe that, in additional to their potential as oral therapeutics against C. difficile infection, T10-2 and T10b can also serve as a new generation DARPin scaffold with superior protease stability.

published proceedings

  • Protein Eng Des Sel

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Simeon, R. A., Zeng, Y. u., Chonira, V., Aguirre, A. M., Lasagna, M., Baloh, M., ... Chen, Z.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Simeon, Rudo A||Zeng, Yu||Chonira, Vikas||Aguirre, Andrea Martinez||Lasagna, Mauricio||Baloh, Marko||Sorg, Joseph A||Tommos, Cecilia||Chen, Zhilei

publication date

  • January 2021