Biological and Medicinal Chemistry

Targeted Fluorogenic Cyanine Carbamates Enable In Vivo Analysis of Antibody-Drug Conjugate Linker Chemistry



Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are a rapidly emerging therapeutic platform. The chemical linker between the antibody and the drug payload plays an essential role in the efficacy and tolerability of these agents. New methods that quantitively assess cleavage efficiency in complex tissue settings could provide valuable insights into the ADC design process. Here we report the development of a near-infrared (NIR) optical imaging approach that measures the site and extent of linker cleavage in mouse models. This approach is enabled by a superior variant of our recently devised cyanine carbamate (CyBam) platform. We identify a novel tertiary amine-containing norcyanine, the product of CyBam cleavage, that exhibits dramatically in-creased cellular signal due to improved cellular permeability and lysosomal accumulation. The resulting cyanine lysosome-targeting carbamates (CyLBams) are ~50X brighter in cells, and we find this strategy is essential for high-contrast in vivo targeted imaging. Finally, we compare a panel of several common ADC linkers across two antibodies and tumor models. These studies indicate that cathepsin-cleavable linkers provide dramatically higher tumor activation relative to hindered or non-hindered disulfides – an observation that is only apparent with in vivo imaging. This strategy enables quantitative comparisons of cleavable linker chemistries in complex tissue settings with implications across the drug delivery landscape.

Version notes

Minor corrections to figures


Thumbnail image of CyLBam_1.1.pdf

Supplementary material

Thumbnail image of CyLBam-SI.pdf
Supplementary Information
Supporting Information contain synthesis procedure and characterization of NorCy7s, CyBams, CyLBams, and key in-termediate compounds, photophysical properties of NorCy7 analogs and CyLBams, details of in vitro experiments and supporting figures and tables.