Despite their well-recognized success in the clinic, antibodies generally do not penetrate cellular membranes to target intracellular molecules, many of which underlie incurable diseases. Here we show that covalently conjugating phosphorothioated DNA oligonucleotides to antibodies enabled their efficient cellular internalization. Antibody cell penetration was partially mediated by membrane potential alteration. Moreover, without an antigen to bind, intracellular levels of the modified antibodies underwent cellular clearance, which involved efflux and lysosomal degradation, enabling detection of intended intracellular molecules as tested in fibroblasts, tumor cells, and T cells. This target-dependent cellular retention of modified antibodies extended to in vivo studies. Both local and systemic administrations of low doses of modified antibodies effectively inhibited intracellular targets, such as transcription factors Myc, interferon regulatory factor 4, and tyrosine-protein kinase SRC, and expression of their downstream genes in tumors, resulting in tumor cell apoptosis and tumor growth inhibition. This simple modification enables the use of antibodies to detect and modulate intracellular molecules in both cultured living cells and in whole animals, forming the foundation for a new paradigm for antibody-based research, diagnostics, and therapeutics.
Andreas Herrmann, Toshikage Nagao, Chunyan Zhang, Christoph Lahtz, Yi-Jia Li, Chanyu Yue, Ronja Mülfarth, Hua Yu