Ferrets have long been used as a disease model for the study of influenza vaccines, but a more recent use has been for the study of human monoclonal antibodies directed against influenza viruses. Published data suggest that human antibodies are cleared unusually quickly from the ferret and that immune responses may be partially responsible. This immunogenicity increases variability within groups and may present an obstacle to long-term studies.
Our aim was to identify an antibody design with reduced immunogenicity and longer circulating half-life in ferrets.
The constant region coding sequences for ferret immunoglobulin G were cloned, and chimeric human/ferret antibodies were expressed and purified. Some of the chimeric antibodies included substitutions that have been shown to extend the half-life of human IgG antibodies. These chimeric antibodies were tested for binding to recombinant ferret FcRn receptor and then evaluated in pharmacokinetic studies in ferrets.
A one-residue substitution in the ferret Fc domain, S252Y, was identified that increased binding affinity to the ferret neonatal receptor by 24-fold and extended half-life from 65 ± 27 to 206 ± 28 hours or ~9 days. Ferrets dosed twice with this surrogate antibody showed no indications of an immune response.
Expressing the variable region of a candidate human therapeutic antibody with ferret constant regions containing the S252Y substitution can offer long half-life and limit immunogenicity.