Systematic comparison of single-chain Fv antibody-fusion toxin constructs containing Pseudomonas Exotoxin A or saporin produced in different microbial expression systems

Pietro Della Cristina, Monica Castagna, Alessio Lombardi, Erika Barison, Giovanni Tagliabue, Aldo Ceriotti, Ilias Koutris, Luana Di Leandro, Francesco Giansanti, Riccardo Vago, Rodolfo Ippoliti, Sopsamorn U. Flavell, David J. Flavell, Marco Colombatti, Serena S. Fabbrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Antibodies raised against selected antigens over-expressed at the cell surface of malignant cells have been chemically conjugated to protein toxin domains to obtain immunotoxins (ITs) able to selectively kill cancer cells. Since latest generation immunotoxins are composed of a toxic domain genetically fused to antibody fragment(s) which confer on the IT target selective specificity, we rescued from the hydridoma 4KB128, a recombinant single-chain variable fragment (scFv) targeting CD22, a marker antigen expressed by B-lineage leukaemias and lymphomas. We constructed several ITs using two enzymatic toxins both able to block protein translation, one of bacterial origin (a truncated version of Pseudomonas exotoxin A, PE40) endowed with EF-2 ADP-ribosylation activity, the other being the plant ribosome-inactivating protein saporin, able to specifically depurinate 23/26/28S ribosomal RNA. PE40 was selected because it has been widely used for the construction of recombinant ITs that have already undergone evaluation in clinical trials. Saporin has also been evaluated clinically and has recently been expressed successfully at high levels in a Pichia pastoris expression system. The aim of the present study was to evaluate optimal microbial expression of various IT formats. Results: An anti-CD22 scFv termed 4KB was obtained which showed the expected binding activity which was also internalized by CD22+ target cells and was also competed for by the parental monoclonal CD22 antibody. Several fusion constructs were designed and expressed either in E. coli or in Pichia pastoris and the resulting fusion proteins affinity-purified. Protein synthesis inhibition assays were performed on CD22+ human Daudi cells and showed that the selected ITs were active, having IC50 values (concentration inhibiting protein synthesis by 50% relative to controls) in the nanomolar range. Conclusions: We undertook a systematic comparison between the performance of the different fusion constructs, with respect to yields in E. coli or P. pastoris expression systems and also with regard to each constructs specific killing efficacy. Our results confirm that E. coli is the system of choice for the expression of recombinant fusion toxins of bacterial origin whereas we further demonstrate that saporin-based ITs are best expressed and recovered from P. pastoris cultures after yeast codon-usage optimization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
JournalMicrobial Cell Factories
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 13 2015


  • Anti-CD22
  • Bacterial/eukaryotic expression systems
  • Pseudomonas exotoxin A
  • Recombinant immunotoxins
  • Saporin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


Dive into the research topics of 'Systematic comparison of single-chain Fv antibody-fusion toxin constructs containing Pseudomonas Exotoxin A or saporin produced in different microbial expression systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this