Carbohydrate-binding antibodies play diverse and critical roles in human health. Endogenous carbohydrate-binding antibodies that recognize bacterial, fungal, and other microbial carbohydrates prevent systemic infections and help maintain microbiome homeostasis. Anti-glycan antibodies can have both beneficial and detrimental effects.
For example, alloantibodies to ABO blood group carbohydrates can help reduce the spread of some infectious diseases, but they also impose limitations for blood transfusions. Antibodies that recognize self-glycans can contribute to autoimmune diseases, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
In addition to endogenous antibodies that arise through natural processes, a variety of vaccines induce anti-glycan antibodies as a primary mechanism of protection.
Some examples of approved carbohydrate-based vaccines that have had a major impact on human health are against pneumococcus, Haemophilus influeanza type b, and Neisseria meningitidis.
Monoclonal antibodies specifically targeting pathogen associated or tumor associated carbohydrate antigens (TACAs) are used clinically for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. This review aims to highlight some of the well-studied and critically important applications of anti-carbohydrate antibodies.
Broadly neutralizing anti–HIV-1 monoclonal antibodies, such as PG9, and its derivative RSH hold great promise in AIDS therapy and prevention. An important feature related to the exceptional efficacy of PG9 and RSH is the presence of sulfated tyrosine residues in their antigen-binding regions.
To maximize antibody functionalities, we have now produced glycan-optimized, fucose-free versions of PG9 and RSH in Nicotiana benthamiana. Both antibodies were efficiently sulfated in planta on coexpression of an engineered human tyrosylprotein sulfotransferase, resulting in antigen-binding and virus neutralization activities equivalent to PG9 synthesized by mammalian cells (CHOPG9).
Based on the controlled production of both sulfated and nonsulfated variants in plants, we could unequivocally prove that tyrosine sulfation is critical for the potency of PG9 and RSH. Moreover, the fucose-free antibodies generated in N. benthamiana are capable of inducing antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity, an activity not observed for CHOPG9.
Thus, tailoring of the antigen-binding site combined with glycan modulation and sulfoengineering yielded plant-produced anti–HIV-1 antibodies with effector functions superior to PG9 made in CHO cells.