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Generation and characterization of non-competitive furin-inhibiting nanobodies

Zhu, J;Declercq, J;Roucourt, B;Ghassabeh, GH;Meulemans, S;Kinne, J;David, G;Vermorken, AJ;Van de Ven, WJ;Lindberg, I;Muyldermans, S;Creemers, JW;

The PC (proprotein convertase) furin cleaves a large variety of proproteins and hence plays a major role in many pathologies. Therefore furin inhibition might be a good strategy for therapeutic intervention, and several furin inhibitors have been generated, although none are entirely furin-specific. To reduce potential side effects caused by cross-reactivity with other proteases, dromedary heavy-chain-derived nanobodies against catalytically active furin were developed as specific furin inhibitors. The nanobodies bound only to furin but not to other PCs. Upon overexpression in cell lines, they inhibited the cleavage of two different furin substrates, TGF (transforming growth factor ) and GPC3 (glypican 3). Purified nanobodies could inhibit the cleavage of diphtheria toxin into its enzymatically active A fragment, but did not inhibit cleavage of a small synthetic peptide-based substrate, suggesting a mode-of-action based on steric hindrance. The dissociation constant of purified nanobody 14 is in the nanomolar range. The nanobodies were non-competitive inhibitors with an inhibitory constant in the micromolar range as demonstrated by Dixon plot. Furthermore, anti-furin nanobodies could protect HEK (human embryonic kidney)-293T cells from diphtheria-toxin-induced cytotoxicity as efficiently as the PC inhibitor nona-D-arginine. In conclusion, these antibody-based single-domain nanobodies represent the first generation of highly specific non-competitive furin inhibitors.