Antibody fragments as tools for elucidating structure-toxicity relationships and for diagnostic/therapeutic targeting of neurotoxic amyloid oligomers

André L.B. Bitencourt, Raquel M. Campos, Erika N. Cline, William L. Klein, Adriano Sebollela*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The accumulation of amyloid protein aggregates in tissues is the basis for the onset of diseases known as amyloidoses. Intriguingly, many amyloidoses impact the central nervous system (CNS) and usually are devastating diseases. It is increasingly apparent that neurotoxic soluble oligomers formed by amyloidogenic proteins are the primary molecular drivers of these diseases, making them lucrative diagnostic and therapeutic targets. One promising diagnostic/therapeutic strategy has been the development of antibody fragments against amyloid oligomers. Antibody fragments, such as fragment antigen-binding (Fab), scFv (single chain variable fragments), and VHH (heavy chain variable domain or single-domain antibodies) are an alternative to full-length IgGs as diagnostics and therapeutics for a variety of diseases, mainly because of their increased tissue penetration (lower MW compared to IgG), decreased inflammatory potential (lack of Fc domain), and facile production (low structural complexity). Furthermore, through the use of in vitro-based ligand selection, it has been possible to identify antibody fragments presenting marked conformational selectivity. In this review, we summarize significant reports on antibody fragments selective for oligomers associated with prevalent CNS amyloidoses. We discuss promising results obtained using antibody fragments as both diagnostic and therapeutic agents against these diseases. In addition, the use of antibody fragments, particularly scFv and VHH, in the isolation of unique oligomeric assemblies is discussed as a strategy to unravel conformational moieties responsible for neurotoxicity. We envision that advances in this field may lead to the development of novel oligomer-selective antibody fragments with superior selectivity and, hopefully, good clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8920
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Amyloid
  • Antibody fragments
  • NUsc1
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Oligomer
  • Single chain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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