High levels of protein expression are key to the successful development and manufacture of a therapeutic antibody. Here, we describe two related antibodies, Ab001 and Ab008, where Ab001 shows a markedly lower level of expression relative to Ab008 when stably expressed in Chinese hamster ovary cells. We use single-gene expression vectors and structural analysis to show that the reduced titer is associated with the VL CDR2 of Ab001. We adopted two approaches to improve the expression of Ab001. First, we used mutagenesis to change single amino-acid residues in the Ab001 VL back to the equivalent Ab008 residues but this resulted in limited improvements in expression. In contrast when we used an in silico structure-based design approach to generate a set of five individual single-point variants in a discrete region of the VL, all exhibited significantly improved expression relative to Ab001. The most successful of these, D53N, exhibited a 25-fold increase in stable transfectants relative to Ab001. The functional potency of these VL-modified antibodies was unaffected. We expect that this in silico engineering strategy can be used to improve the expression of other antibodies and proteins.

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