Complementarity-determining regions (CDRs) are sites on the variable chains of antibodies responsible for binding to specific antigens. In this study, a short peptide probe for recognition of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), was identified by testing sequences derived from the CDRs of an anti-TNT monoclonal antibody. The major TNT-binding site in this antibody was identified in the heavy chain CDR3 by antigen docking simulation and confirmed by an immunoassay using a spot-synthesis based peptide array comprising amino acid sequences of six CDRs in the variable region. A peptide derived from heavy chain CDR3 (RGYSSFIYWF) bound to TNT with a dissociation constant of 1.3 μM measured by surface plasmon resonance. Substitution of selected amino acids with basic residues increased TNT binding while substitution with acidic amino acids decreased affinity, an isoleucine to arginine change showed the greatest improvement of 1.8-fold. The ability to create simple peptide binders of volatile organic compounds from sequence information provided by the immune system in the creation of an immune response will be beneficial for sensor developments in the future.
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