PROTEIN AND PEPTIDE ENGINEERING FOR IMPROVING THERAPIES FOR APPLICATIONS IN HUMAN HEALTH
Karlsson, Amy J
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The work in this dissertation focuses on protein and peptides engineering for improving therapies for applications in human health. First, we describe a directed evolution approach to engineer antibody fragments to bind to intracellular targets. An antibody fragment library was displayed using the twin arginine translocation inner-membrane display pathway, in order to allow only antibodies that are well-folded in the reducing cytoplasmic environment to be screened for binding. Displayed libraries were screened for binding to the apoptosis inhibitor survivin, and scFv cytoplasmic solubility and specificity was characterized. Though the antibodies isolated through this method displayed strong intracellular folding and high binding to survivin, they exhibited non-specific binding as well. We improved the screening approach by using whole-plasmid PCR to recover sequences of isolated antibodies. Additional improvements to the screening process to increase stringency will allow better isolation of antibodies with high affinity and specificity for their target. In a rational design approach, we designed an antimicrobial peptide-based approach for the treatment of candidiasis. Candida albicans is a commensal organism that resides asymptomatically in the body. This opportunistic pathogen can overgrow and cause potentially fatal bloodstream infections. C. albicans biofilms that colonize implanted devices exhibit increased resistance to antimicrobial treatments and current antifungal treatments contribute to the rise of resistant strains of C. albicans or may cause toxicity. Thus, there is a clinical need for new or improved antifungal therapeutics to treat C. albicans infections. Histatin-5 (Hst-5) is an antimicrobial peptide secreted by the salivary glands that exhibits antifungal activity against C. albicans. Hst-5 can, however, be degraded by secreted aspartic proteases (Saps) produced by C. albicans cells, reducing its antifungal activity. Amino acid substitutions made to Hst-5 reduced the likelihood of proteolytic degradation to better maintain antifungal activity. Of these modifications, the K11R-K17R and E16R peptides showed enhanced antifungal activity in preventing C. albicans biofilm formation and eradicating preformed biofilms as compared to parent Hst-5. The improvements to methods and experimental findings in this research contribute to the improvement of therapies to treat human disease.