Forsström B, et al. (2014) “Proteome-wide epitope mapping of antibodies using ultra-dense peptide arrays.” Mol Cell Proteomics. 13(6): 1585-97. doi: 10.1074/mcp.M113.033308
Antibodies are of importance for the field of proteomics, both as reagents for imaging cells, tissues, and organs and as capturing agents for affinity enrichment in mass-spectrometry-based techniques. It is important to gain basic insights regarding the binding sites (epitopes) of antibodies and potential cross-reactivity to nontarget proteins. Knowledge about an antibody’s linear epitopes is also useful in, for instance, developing assays involving the capture of peptides obtained from trypsin cleavage of samples prior to mass spectrometry analysis. Here, we describe, for the first time, the design and use of peptide arrays covering all human proteins for the analysis of antibody specificity, based on parallel in situ photolithic synthesis of a total of 2.1 million overlapping peptides. This has allowed analysis of on- and off-target binding of both monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies, complemented with precise mapping of epitopes based on full amino acid substitution scans. The analysis suggests that linear epitopes are relatively short, confined to five to seven residues, resulting in apparent off-target binding to peptides corresponding to a large number of unrelated human proteins. However, subsequent analysis using recombinant proteins suggests that these linear epitopes have a strict conformational component, thus giving us new insights regarding how antibodies bind to their antigens.
Antibodies are used in proteomics both as imaging reagents for the analysis of tissue specificity (1) and subcellular localization (2) and as capturing agents for targeted proteomics (3), in particular for the enrichment of peptides for immunoaffinity methods such as Stable Isotope Standards and Capture by Anti-peptide Antibodies (4). In fact, the Human Proteome Project (5) has announced that one of the three pillars of the project will be antibody-based, with one of the aims being to generate antibodies to at least one representative protein from all protein-coding genes. Knowledge about the binding site (epitope) of an antibody toward a target protein is thus important for gaining basic insights into antibody specificity and sensitivity and facilitating the identification and design of antigens to be used for reagents in proteomics, as well as for the generation of therapeutic antibodies and vaccines (1, 6). With over 20 monoclonal-antibody-based drugs now on the market and over 100 in clinical trials, the field of antibody therapeutics has become a central component of the pharmaceutical industry (7). One of the key parameters for antibodies includes the nature of the binding recognition toward the target, involving either linear epitopes formed by consecutive amino acid residues or conformational epitopes consisting of amino acids brought together by the fold of the target protein (8).
A large number of methods have therefore been developed to determine the epitopes of antibodies, including mass spectrometry (9), solid phase libraries (10, 11), and different display systems (12⇓–14) such as bacterial display (15) and phage display (16). The most common method for epitope mapping involves the use of soluble and immobilized (tethered) peptide libraries, often in an array format, exemplified by the “Geysen Pepscan” method (11) in which overlapping “tiled” peptides are synthesized and used for binding analysis. The tiled peptide approach can also be combined with alanine scans (17) in which alanine substitutions are introduced into the synthetic peptides and the direct contribution of each amino acid can be investigated. Maier et al. (18) described a high-throughput epitope-mapping screen of a recombinant peptide library consisting of a total of 2304 overlapping peptides of the vitamin D receptor, and recently Buus et al. (19) used in situ synthesis on microarrays to design and generate 70,000 peptides for epitope mapping of antibodies using a range of peptides with sizes from 4-mer to 20-mer.
So far it has not been possible to investigate on- and off-target binding in a proteome-wide manner, but the emergence of new methods for in situ synthesis of peptides on ultra-dense arrays has made this achievable. Here, we describe the design and use of peptide arrays generated with parallel in situ photolithic synthesis (20) of a total of 2.1 million overlapping peptides covering all human proteins with overlapping peptides. Miniaturization of the peptide arrays (21) has led to improved density of the synthesized peptides and consequently has improved the resolution and coverage of the epitope mapping. This has allowed us to study the specificity and cross-reactivity of both monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies across the whole “epitome” with the use of both proteome-wide arrays and focused-content peptide arrays covering selected antigen sequences to precisely map the contribution of each amino acid of the target protein for binding recognition of the corresponding antibodies. The results show the usefulness of proteome-wide epitope mapping, showing a path forward for high-throughput analysis of antibody interactions.