Applying antibodies inside cells: Principles and recent advances in neurobiology, virology and oncology

Congcong Zhang, Rina M. Ötjengerdes, Julian Roewe, Rebeca Mejias, Andrea L. J. Marschall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
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To interfere with cell function, many scientists rely on methods that target DNA or RNA due to the ease with which they can be applied. Proteins are usually the final executors of function but are targeted only indirectly by these methods. Recent advances in targeted degradation of proteins based on proteolysis-targeting chimaeras (PROTACs), ubiquibodies, deGradFP (degrade Green Fluorescent Protein) and other approaches have demonstrated the potential of interfering directly at the protein level for research and therapy. Proteins can be targeted directly and very specifically by antibodies, but using antibodies inside cells has so far been considered to be challenging. However, it is possible to deliver antibodies or other proteins into the cytosol using standard laboratory equipment. Physical methods such as electroporation have been demonstrated to be efficient and validated thoroughly over time. The expression of intracellular antibodies (intrabodies) inside cells is another way to interfere with intracellular targets at the protein level. Methodological strategies to target the inside of cells with antibodies, including delivered antibodies and expressed antibodies, as well as applications in the research areas of neurobiology, viral infections and oncology, are reviewed here. Antibodies have already been used to interfere with a wide range of intracellular targets. Disease-related targets included proteins associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease (α-synuclein), Alzheimer's disease (amyloid-β) or Huntington's disease (mutant huntingtin [mHtt]). The applications of intrabodies in the context of viral infections include targeting proteins associated with HIV (e.g. HIV1-TAT, Rev, Vif, gp41, gp120, gp160) and different oncoviruses such as human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and Epstein-Barr virus, and they have been used to interfere with various targets related to different processes in cancer, including oncogenic pathways, proliferation, cell cycle, apoptosis, metastasis, angiogenesis or neo-antigens (e.g. p53, human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 [HER2], signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 [STAT3], RAS-related RHO-GTPase B (RHOB), cortactin, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 [VEGFR2], Ras, Bcr-Abl). Interfering at the protein level allows questions to be addressed that may remain unanswered using alternative methods. This review addresses why direct targeting of proteins allows unique insights, what is currently feasible in vitro, and how this relates to potential therapeutic applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number32301049
Pages (from-to)435-462
Number of pages28
Issue number4
Early online date16 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

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