Determinants of the assembly and function of antibody variable domains
The antibody Fv module which binds antigen consists of the variable domains VL and VH. These exhibit a conserved ß-sheet structure and comprise highly variable loops (CDRs). Little is known about the contributions of the framework residues and CDRs to their association. We exchanged conserved interface residues as well as CDR loops and tested the effects on two Fvs interacting with moderate affinities (KDs of ~2.5 µM and ~6 µM). While for the rather instable domains, almost all mutations had a negative effect, the more stable domains tolerated a number of mutations of conserved interface residues. Of particular importance for Fv association are VLP44 and VHL45. In general, the exchange of conserved residues in the VL/VH interface did not have uniform effects on domain stability. Furthermore, the effects on association and antigen binding do not strictly correlate. In addition to the interface, the CDRs modulate the variable domain framework to a significant extent as shown by swap experiments. Our study reveals a complex interplay of domain stability, association and antigen binding including an unexpected strong mutual influence of the domain framework and the CDRs on stability/association on the one side and antigen binding on the other side.