Aptamers as quality control tool for production, storage and biosimilarity of the anti-CD20 biopharmaceutical rituximab
Sabrina Wildner, Sara Huber, Christof Regl, Christian G. Huber, Urs Lohrig & Gabriele Gadermaier
Detailed analysis of biopharmaceuticals is crucial for safety, efficacy and stability. Aptamers, which are folded, single-stranded oligonucleotides, can be used as surrogate antibodies to detect subtle conformational changes. We aimed to generate and assess DNA aptamers against the therapeutic anti-CD20 antibody rituximab. Six rituximab-specific aptamers with Kd = 354–887 nM were obtained using the magnetic bead-based systematic evolution of ligands by exponential enrichment (SELEX) technology. Aptamer folds were analysed by online prediction tools and circular dichroism spectroscopy suggesting quadruplex structures for two aptamers while others present B-DNA helices. Aptamer binding and robustness with respect to minor differences in buffer composition or aptamer folding were verified in the enzyme-linked apta-sorbent assay. Five aptamers showed exclusive specificity to the Fab-fragment of rituximab while one aptamer revealed a broader recognition pattern to other monoclonal antibodies. Structural differences upon incubation at 40 °C for 72 h or UV exposure of rituximab were uncovered by four aptamers. High similarity between rituximab originator and biosimilar lots was demonstrated. The most sensitive aptamer (RA2) detected signal changes for all lots of a copy product suggesting conformational differences. For the first time, a panel of rituximab-specific aptamers was generated allowing the assessment of conformational coherence during production, storage, and biosimilarity of different products.
Aptamers, biopharmaceuticals, oligonucleotides, antibodies, biosimilar