Dissection of the Neonatal Fc Receptor (FcRn)-Albumin Interface Using Mutagenesis and Anti-FcRn Albumin-blocking Antibodies.

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J Biol Chem 2014 Jun 13; 289(24):17228-17239.




Albumin is the most abundant protein in blood and plays a pivotal role as a multitransporter of a wide range of molecules such as fatty acids, metabolites, hormones, and toxins. In addition, it binds a variety of drugs. Its role as distributor is supported by its extraordinary serum half-life of 3 weeks. This is related to its size and binding to the cellular receptor FcRn, which rescues albumin from intracellular degradation. Furthermore, the long half-life has fostered a great and increasing interest in utilization of albumin as a carrier of protein therapeutics and chemical drugs. However, to fully understand how FcRn acts as a regulator of albumin homeostasis and to take advantage of the FcRn-albumin interaction in drug design, the interaction interface needs to be dissected. Here, we used a panel of monoclonal antibodies directed towards human FcRn in combination with site-directed mutagenesis and structural modeling to unmask the binding sites for albumin blocking antibodies and albumin on the receptor, which revealed that the interaction is not only strictly pH-dependent, but predominantly hydrophobic in nature. Specifically, we provide mechanistic evidence for a crucial role of a cluster of conserved tryptophan residues that expose a pH-sensitive loop of FcRn, and identify structural differences in proximity to these hot spot residues that explain divergent cross-species binding properties of FcRn. Our findings expand our knowledge of how FcRn is controlling albumin homeostasis at a molecular level, which will guide design and engineering of novel albumin variants with altered transport properties. J Biol Chem 2014 Jun 13; 289(24):17228-17239.