Immunotargeting of Nanocrystals by SpyCatcher Conjugation of Engineered Antibodies



Inorganic nanocrystals such as quantum dots (QDs) and upconverting nanoparticles (UCNPs) are uniquely suited for quanti-tative live-cell imaging and are typically functionalized with ligands to study specific receptors or cellular targets. Antibod-ies (Ab) are among the most useful targeting reagents owing to their high affinities and specificities, but common nanocrys-tal labeling methods may orient Ab incorrectly, be reversible or denaturing, or lead to Ab-NP complexes too large for some applications. Here, we show that SpyCatcher proteins, which bind and spontaneously form covalent isopeptide bonds with cognate SpyTag peptides, can conjugate engineered Ab to nanoparticle surfaces with control over stability, orientation, and stoichiometry. Compact SpyCatcher-functionalized QDs and UCNPs may be labeled with short-chain variable fragment Ab (scFv) engineered to bind urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptors (uPAR) that are overexpressed in many human can-cers. Confocal imaging of anti-uPAR scFv-QD conjugates shows the Ab mediates specific binding and internalization by breast cancer cells expressing uPAR. Time-lapse imaging of photostable scFv-UCNP conjugates show that Ab binding caus-es uPAR internalization with a ∼20-minute half-life on the cell surface, and uPAR is internalized to endolysosomal com-partments distinct from general membrane stains and without significant recycling to the cell surface. The controlled and stable conjugation of engineered Ab to NPs enables targeting of diverse receptors for live-cell study of their distribution, trafficking, and physiology.


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Supplementary material

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Immunotargeting of Nanocrystals by SpyCatcher Conjugation of Engineered Antibodies
Supplementary Information, including: nanoparticle characterization, bioconjugation schemes and data, and image analysis