Predicting hemagglutinin MHC-II ligand analogues in anti-TNFα biologics: Implications for immunogenicity of pharmaceutical proteins



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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the extent of overlapping immunogenic peptides between three pharmaceutical biologics and influenza viruses. Clinical studies have shown that subsets of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) develop anti-drug antibodies towards anti-TNFα biologics. We postulate that common infectious pathogens, including influenza viruses, may sensitize RA patients toward recombinant proteins.We hypothesize that embedded within infliximab (IFX), adalimumab (ADA), and etanercept (ETN) are ligands of class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC-II) that mimic T cell epitopes derived from influenza hemagglutinin (HA). The rationale is that repeated administration of the biologics would reactivate HA-primed CD4 T cells, stimulating B cells to produce cross-reactive antibodies. Custom scripts were constructed using MATLAB to compare MHC-II ligands of HA and the biologics; all ligands were predicted using tools in Immune Epitope Database and Resources (IEDB). We analyzed three HLA-DR1 alleles (0101, 0401 and 1001) that are prominent in RA patients, and two alleles (0103 and 1502) that are not associated with RA. The results indicate that 0401 would present more analogues of HA ligands in the three anti-TNFα biologics compared to the other alleles. The approach led to identification of potential ligands in IFX and ADA that shares sequence homology with a known HA-specific CD4 T cell epitope. We also discovered a peptide in the complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR-3) of ADA that encompasses both a potential CD4 T cell epitope and a known B cell epitope in HA. The results may help generate new hypotheses for interrogating patient variability of immunogenicity of the anti-TNFα drugs. The approach would aid development of new recombinant biologics by identifying analogues of CD4 T cell epitopes of common pathogens at the preclinical stage. Copyright:

Open Access