Simona Saporiti,1 Chiara Parravicini,1 Carlo Pergola,2 Uliano Guerrini,1 Mara Rossi,3 Fabio Centola,3 and Ivano Eberini4
1Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy;
2Analytical Development Biotech and 3Global Analytical Pharmaceutical Science and Innovation, Merck Serono S.p.A., Rome, Italy;
4Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari & DSRC, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy
Currently, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are the most used biopharmaceuticals for human therapy. One of the key aspects in their development is the control of effector functions mediated by the interaction between fragment crystallizable (Fc) and Fcg receptors, which is a secondary mechanism of action of biotherapeutics. N-glycosylation at the Fc portion can regulate these mechanisms, and much experimental evidence suggests that modifications of glycosidic chains can affect antibody binding to FcgRIIIa, consequently impacting the immune response. In this work, we try to elucidate via in silico procedures the structural role exhibited by glycans, particularly fucose, in mAb conformational freedom that can potentially affect the receptor recognition. By using adalimumab, a marketed IgG1, as a general template, after rebuilding its three-dimensional (3D) structure through homology modeling approaches, we carried out molecular dynamics simulations of three differently glycosylated species: aglycosylated, afucosylated, and fucosylated antibody. First, the use of AMBER10:EHT forcefield provided by MOE was validated, being a good parametrization method for the glycans used in our study. Then, trajectory analysis showed different dynamical behaviors and pointed out that sugars can influence the overall 3D structure of the antibody. As a result, we propose a putative structural mechanism by which the presence of fucose introduces conformational constraints in the whole antibody and not only in the Fc domain, preventing a conformation suitable for the interaction with the receptor. As secondary evidence, we observed a high flexibility of the antibodies that is translated into an asymmetric behavior of Fab portions shown by all the simulated biopolymers, making the dynamical asymmetry a new, to our knowledge, molecular aspect that may be further investigated. In conclusion, these findings can help understand the contribution of sugars on the structural architecture of mAbs, paving the way to novel strategies of pharmaceutical development.