Single-chain Fragment variable antibody targeting cholecystokinin-B receptor for pain reduction. Academic Article uri icon


  • The cholecystokinin B receptor and its neuropeptide ligand are upregulated in chronic neuropathic pain models. Single-chain Fragment variable antibodies were generated as preferred non-opioid targeting therapy blocking the cholecystokinin B receptor to inhibit chronic neuropathic pain models in vivo and in vitro. Engineered antibodies of this type feature binding activity similar to monoclonal antibodies but with stronger affinity and increased tissue penetrability due to their smaller size. More importantly, single-chain Fragment variable antibodies have promising biotherapeutic applications for both nervous and immune systems, now recognized as interactive in chronic pain. A mouse single-chain Fragment variable antibody library recognizing a fifteen amino acid extracellular peptide fragment of the cholecystokinin B receptor was generated from immunized spleens. Ribosome display, a powerful cell-free technology, was applied for recombinant antibody selection. Antibodies with higher affinity, stability, solubility, and binding specificity for cholecystokinin B not A receptor were selected and optimized for in vivo and in vitro efficacy. A single dose of the lead candidate reduced mechanical and cold hypersensitivity in two rodent models of neuropathic pain for at least seven weeks. Continuing efficacy was evident with either intraperitoneal or intranasal dosing. Likewise, the lead single-chain Fragment variable antibody totally prevented development of anxiety- and depression-like behaviors and cognitive deficits typical in the models. Reduction of neuronal firing frequency was evident in trigeminal ganglia primary neuronal cultures treated in vitro with the cholecystokinin B receptor antibody. Immunofluorescent staining intensity in the trigeminal neuron primary cultures was significantly reduced incrementally after overnight binding with increasingly higher dilutions of the single-chain Fragment variable antibody. While it is reported that single-chain Fragment variable antibodies are removed systemically within 2-6 h, Western blot evidence indicates the His-tag marker remained after 7 weeks in the trigeminal ganglia and in the dorsolateral medulla, providing evidence of brain and ganglia penetrance known to be compromised in overactivated states. This project showcases the in vivo efficacy of our lead single-chain Fragment variable antibody indicating its potential for development as a non-opioid, non-addictive therapeutic intervention for chronic pain. Importantly, studies by others have indicated treatments with cholecystokinin B receptor antagonists suppress maintenance and reactivation of morphine dependence in place preference tests while lowering tolerance and dose requirements. Our future studies remain to address these potential benefits that may accompany the cholecystokinin B receptor biological therapy. Both chronic sciatic and orofacial pain can be unrelenting and excruciating, reducing quality of life as well as diminishing physical and mental function. An effective non-opiate, non-addictive therapy with potential to significantly reduce chronic neuropathic pain long term is greatly needed.© 2021 The Author(s).

publication date

  • December 2021