Development of Neutralizing Multimeric Nanobody Constructs Directed against IL-13: From Immunization to Lead Optimization

Philippe J-L Y Gevenois, Pieter De Pauw, Steve Schoonooghe, Cédric Delporte, Thami Sebti, Karim Amighi, Serge Muyldermans, Nathalie Wauthoz

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1 Citation (Scopus)


IL-13 is a pleiotropic cytokine mainly secreted by Th2 cells. It reacts with many different types of cells involved in allergy, inflammation, and fibrosis, e.g., mastocytes, B cells, and fibroblasts. The role of IL-13 in conditions involving one or several of these phenotypes has therefore been extensively investigated. The inhibition of this cytokine in animal models for various pathologies yielded highly promising results. However, most human trials relying on anti-IL-13 conventional mAbs have failed to achieve a significant improvement of the envisaged disorders. Where some studies might have suffered from several weaknesses, the strategies themselves, such as targeting only IL-13 using conventional mAbs or employing a systemic administration, could be questioned. Nanobodies are recombinant Ag-binding fragments derived from the variable part of H chain-only Abs occurring in Camelidae. Thanks to their single-domain structure, small size (≈15 kDa), good stability, and solubility, they can be engineered into multispecific constructs for combined therapies or for use in new strategies such as formulations for local administration, e.g., pulmonary administration. In this study, we describe the generation of 38 nanobodies that can be subdivided into five CDR3 families. Nine nanobodies were found to have a good affinity profile (KD = 1-200 nM), but none were able to strongly inhibit IL-13 biological activity in vitro (IC50 > 50 µM: HEK-Blue IL-13/IL-4 cells). Multimeric constructs were therefore designed from these inhibitors and resulted in an up to 36-fold improvement in affinity and up to 300-fold enhancement of the biological activity while conserving a high specificity toward IL-13.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2608-2620
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology
  • Antibody Affinity/immunology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-13/antagonists & inhibitors
  • Single-Domain Antibodies/immunology


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