• Open Access

pH-selective mutagenesis of protein–protein interfaces: In silico design of therapeutic antibodies with prolonged half-life


  • V.S. developed the method and implemented it in Discovery Studio. V.S. and L.Y. carried out the calculations and analyzed the results.


Understanding the effects of mutation on pH-dependent protein binding affinity is important in protein design, especially in the area of protein therapeutics. We propose a novel method for fast in silico mutagenesis of protein–protein complexes to calculate the effect of mutation as a function of pH. The free energy differences between the wild type and mutants are evaluated from a molecular mechanics model, combined with calculations of the equilibria of proton binding. The predicted pH-dependent energy profiles demonstrate excellent agreement with experimentally measured pH-dependency of the effect of mutations on the dissociation constants for the complex of turkey ovomucoid third domain (OMTKY3) and proteinase B. The virtual scanning mutagenesis identifies all hotspots responsible for pH-dependent binding of immunoglobulin G (IgG) to neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) and the results support the current understanding of the salvage mechanism of the antibody by FcRn based on pH-selective binding. The method can be used to select mutations that change the pH-dependent binding profiles of proteins and guide the time consuming and expensive protein engineering experiments. As an application of this method, we propose a computational strategy to search for mutations that can alter the pH-dependent binding behavior of IgG to FcRn with the aim of improving the half-life of therapeutic antibodies in the target organism. © Proteins 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.