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Title:  Method of blocking blood vessel growth using tie-2 ligand 2

United States Patent:  6,645,484

Issued:  November 11, 2003

Inventors:  Davis; Samuel (New York, NY); Bruno; JoAnne (Bloomingdale, NJ); Goldfarb; Mitchell (River Edge, NJ); Aldrich; Thomas H. (Ossining, NY); Maisonpierre; Peter C. (Croton, NY); Radziejewski; Czeslaw (N. White Plains, NY); Jones; Pamela F. (Fairfield, CT); Yancopoulos; George D. (Yorktown Heights, NY)

Assignee:  Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Tarrytown, NY)

Appl. No.:  689020

Filed:  October 12, 2000

Abstract

The present invention provides for an isolated nucleic acid molecule encoding a human TIE-2 ligand. In addition, the invention provides for a receptor body which specifically binds a human TIE-2 ligand. The invention also provides an antibody which specifically binds a human TIE-2 ligand. The invention further provides for an antagonist of human TIE-2. The invention also provides for therapeutic compositions as well as a method of blocking blood vessel growth, a method of promoting neovascularization, a method of promoting the growth or differentiation of a cell expressing the TIE-2 receptor, a method of blocking the growth or differentiation of a cell expressing the TIE-2 receptor and a method of attenuating or preventing tumor growth in a human.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides for a composition comprising a TIE-2 ligand substantially free of other proteins. The invention also provides for an isolated nucleic acid molecule encoding a TIE-2 ligand. The isolated nucleic acid may be DNA, cDNA or RNA. The invention also provides for a vector comprising an isolated nucleic acid molecule encoding a TIE-2 ligand. The invention further provides for a host-vector system for the production in a suitable host cell of a polypeptide having the biological activity of a TIE-2 ligand. The suitable host cell may be bacterial, yeast, insect or mammalian. The invention also provides for a method of producing a polypeptide having the biological activity of a TIE-2 ligand which comprises growing cells of the host-vector system under conditions permitting production of the polypeptide and recovering the polypeptide so produced.

The invention herein described of an isolated nucleic acid molecule encoding a TIE-2 ligand further provides for the development of the ligand, a fragment or derivative thereof, or another molecule which is a receptor agonist or antagonist, as a therapeutic for the treatment of patients suffering from disorders involving cells, tissues or organs which express the TIE receptor. The present invention also provides for an antibody which specifically binds such a therapeutic molecule. The antibody may be monoclonal or polyclonal. The invention also provides for a method of using such a monoclonal or polyclonal antibody to measure the amount of the therapeutic molecule in a sample taken from a patient for purposes of monitoring the course of therapy.

The present invention also provides for an antibody which specifically binds a TIE-2 ligand. The antibody may be monoclonal or polyclonal. Thus the invention further provides for therapeutic compositions comprising an antibody which specifically binds a TIE-2 ligand in a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle. The invention also provides for a method of blocking blood vessel growth in a mammal by administering an effective amount of a therapeutic composition comprising an antibody which specifically binds a TIE-2 ligand in a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle.

The invention further provides for therapeutic compositions comprising a TIE-2 ligand in a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle. The invention also provides for a method of promoting neovascularization in a patient by administering an effective amount of a therapeutic composition comprising a TIE-2 ligand in a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle. In one embodiment, the method may be used to promote wound healing. In another embodiment, the method may be used to treat ischemia.

Alternatively, the invention provides that a TIE-2 ligand may be conjugated to a cytotoxic agent and a therapeutic composition prepared therefrom. The invention further provides for a receptor body which specifically binds a TIE-2 ligand. The invention further provides for therapeutic compositions comprising a receptor body which specifically binds a TIE-2 ligand in a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle. The invention also provides for a method of blocking blood vessel growth in a mammal by administering an effective amount of a therapeutic composition comprising a receptor body which specifically binds a TIE-2 ligand in a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle.

The invention also provides for a TIE-2 receptor antagonist, known as TIE-2 ligand 2, as well as a method of inhibiting TIE-2 ligand biological activity in a mammal comprising administering to the mammal an effective amount of a TIE-2 antagonist. According to the invention, the antagonist may be an antibody or other molecule capable of specifically binding either TIE-2 ligand or TIE-2 receptor. For example, the antagonist may be a TIE-2 receptorbody.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

As described in greater detail below, applicants have isolated, by expression cloning, a novel ligand that binds the TIE-2 receptor. The present invention comprises a TIE-2 ligand as well as its amino acid sequence and also functionally equivalent molecules in which amino acid residues are substituted for residues within the sequence resulting in a silent change. For example, one or more amino acid residues within the sequence can be substituted by another amino acid(s) of a similar polarity which acts as a functional equivalent, resulting in a silent alteration. Substitutes for an amino acid within the sequence may be selected from other members of the class to which the amino acid belongs. For example, the class of nonpolar (hydrophobic) amino acids include alanine, leucine, isoleucine, valine, proline, phenylalanine, tryptophan and methionine. The polar neutral amino acids include glycine, serine, threonine, cysteine, tyrosine, asparagine, and glutamine. The positively charged (basic) amino acids include arginine, lysine and histidine. The negatively charged (acidic) amino acids include aspartic acid and glutamic acid. Also included within the scope of the invention are proteins or fragments or derivatives thereof which exhibit the same or similar biological activity and derivatives which are differentially modified during or after translation, eg., by glycosylation, proteolytic cleavage, linkage to an antibody molecule or other cellular ligand, etc.

The present invention also encompasses the nucleotide sequence that encodes the protein described herein as TIE-2 ligand 1, as well as cells which are genetically engineered to produce the protein, by e.g. transfection, transduction, infection, electroporation, or microinjection of nucleic acid encoding the TIE-2 ligand 1 described herein in a suitable expression vector.

The present invention further encompasses the nucleotide sequence that encodes the protein described herein as TIE-2 ligand 2, as well as cells which are genetically engineered to produce the protein, by e.g. transfection, transduction, infection, electroporation, or microinjection of nucleic acid encoding the TIE-2 ligand 2 described herein in a suitable expression vector.

One skilled in the art will also recognize that the present invention encompasses DNA and RNA sequences that hybridize to a deduced TIE-2 ligand encoding sequence, under conditions of moderate stringency, as defined in, for example, Sambrook, et al. Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual, 2 ed. Vol. 1, pp. 101-104, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (1989). Thus, a nucleic acid molecule contemplated by the invention includes one having a sequence deduced from an amino acid sequence of a TIE-2 ligand prepared as described herein, as well as a molecule having a sequence of nucleic acids that hybridizes to such a nucleic acid sequence, and also a nucleic acid sequence which is degenerate of the above sequences as a result of the genetic code, but which encodes a ligand that binds the TIE-2 receptor.

Any of the methods known to one skilled in the art for the insertion of DNA fragments into a vector may be used to construct expression vectors encoding TIE-2 ligand using appropriate transcriptional/translational control signals and the protein coding sequences. These methods may include in vitro recombinant DNA and synthetic techniques and in vivo recombinations (genetic recombination). Expression of a nucleic acid sequence encoding a TIE-2 ligand or peptide fragments thereof may be regulated by a second nucleic acid sequence so that the protein or peptide is expressed in a host transformed with the recombinant DNA molecule. For example, expression of a TIE-2 ligand described herein may be controlled by any promoter/enhancer element known in the art. Promoters which may be used to control expression of the ligand include, but are not limited to the long terminal repeat as described in Squinto et al., (Cell 65:1-20 (1991)); the SV40 early promoter region (Bernoist and Chambon, Nature 290:304-310), the CMV promoter, the M-MuLV 5' terminal repeat, the promoter contained in the 3' long terminal repeat of Rous sarcoma virus (Yamamoto, et al., Cell 22:787-797 (1980)), the herpes thymidine kinase promoter (Wagner et al, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 78:144-1445 (1981)), the adenovirus promoter, the regulatory sequences of the metallothioein gene (Brinster et al., Nature 296:39-42 (1982)); prokaryotic expression vectors such as the .beta.-lactamase promoter (Villa-Kamaroff, et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 75:3727-3731 (1978)), or the tac promoter (DeBoer, et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 80:21-25 (1983)), see also "Useful proteins from recombinant bacteria" in Scientific American, 242:74-94 (1980); promoter elements from yeast or other fungi such as the Gal 4 promoter, the ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) promoter, PGK (phosphoglycerol kinase) promoter, alkaline phosphatase promoter, and the following animal transcriptional control regions, which exhibit tissue specificity and have been utilized in transgenic animals: elastase I gene control region which is active in pancreatic acinar cells (Swift et al., Cell 38:639-646 (1984); Ornitz et al., Cold Spring Harbor Symp. Quant. Biol. 50:399-409 (1986); MacDonald, Hepatology 7:425-515 (1987); insulin gene control region which is active in pancreatic beta cells (Hanahan, Nature 315:115-122 (1985)), immunoglobulin gene control region which is active in lymphoid cells (Grosschedl et al., 1984, Cell 38:647-658; Adames et al., 1985, Nature 318:533-538; Alexander et al., 1987, Mol. Cell. Biol. 7:1436-1444), mouse mammary tumor virus control region which is active in testicular, breast, lymphoid and mast cells (Leder et al., 1986, Cell 45:485-495), albumin gene control region which is active in liver (Pinkert et al., 1987, Genes and Devel. 1:268-276), alpha-fetoprotein gene control region which is active in liver (Krumlauf et al., 1985, Mol. Cell. Biol. 5:1639-1648; Hammer et al., 1987, Science 235:53-58); alpha 1-antitrypsin gene control region which is active in the liver (Kelsey et al, 1987, Genes and Devel. 1:161-171), beta-globin gene control region which is active in myeloid cells (Mogram et al., 1985, Nature 315:338-340; Kollias et al., 1986, Cell 46:89-94); myelin basic protein gene control region which is active in oligodendrocyte cells in the brain (Readhead et al., 1987, Cell 48:703-712); myosin light chain-2 gene control region which is active in skeletal muscle (Shani, 1985, Nature 314:283-286), and gonadotropic releasing hormone gene control region which is active in the hypothalamus (Mason et al., 1986, Science 234:1372-1378). The invention further encompasses the production of antisense compounds which are capable of specifically hybridizing with a sequence of RNA encoding a TIE-2 ligand to modulate its expression. (Ecker, U.S. Pat. No. 5,166,195, issued Nov. 24, 1992).

Thus, according to the invention, expression vectors capable of being replicated in a bacterial or eukaryotic host comprising a nucleic acid encoding a TIE-2 ligand as described herein, are used to transfect a host and thereby direct expression of such nucleic acid to produce the TIE-2 ligand, which may then be recovered in a biologically active form. As used herein, a biologically active form includes a form capable of binding to the TIE-2 receptor and causing a biological response such as a differentiated function or influencing the phenotype of the cell expressing the receptor. Such biologically active forms would, for example, induce phosphorylation of the tyrosine kinase domain of the TIE-2 receptor.

Expression vectors containing the gene inserts can be identified by four general approaches: (a) DNA-DNA hybridization, (b) presence or absence of "marker" gene functions, (c) expression of inserted sequences and (d) PCR detection. In the first approach, the presence of a foreign gene inserted in an expression vector can be detected by DNA-DNA hybridization using probes comprising sequences that are homologous to an inserted TIE-2 ligand encoding gene. In the second approach, the recombinant vector/host system can be identified and selected based upon the presence or absence of certain "marker" gene functions (e.g., thymidine kinase activity, resistance to antibiotics, transformation phenotype, occlusion body formation in baculovirus, etc.) caused by the insertion of foreign genes in the vector. For example, if a nucleic acid encoding a TIE-2 ligand is inserted within the marker gene sequence of the vector, recombinants containing the insert can be identified by the absence of the marker gene function. In the third approach, recombinant expression vectors can be identified by assaying the foreign gene product expressed by the recombinant. Such assays can be based, for example, on the physical or functional properties of a TIE-2 ligand gene product, for example, by binding of the ligand to the TIE-2 receptor or portion thereof which may be tagged with, for example, a detectable antibody or portion thereof or by binding to antibodies produced against the TIE-2 ligand protein or a portion thereof. Cells of the present invention may transiently or, preferably, constitutively and permanently express TIE-2 ligands as described herein. In the fourth approach, DNA nucleotide primers can be prepared corresponding to a tie-2 specific DNA sequence. These primers could then be used to PCR a tie-2 gene fragment. (PCR Protocols: A Guide To Methods and Applications, Edited by Michael A. Innis et al., Academic Press (1990)).

The recombinant ligand may be purified by any technique which allows for the subsequent formation of a stable, biologically active protein. For example, and not by way of limitation, the ligand may be recovered from cells either as soluble proteins or as inclusion bodies, from which they may be extracted quantitatively by 8M guanidinium hydrochloride and dialysis. In order to further purify the ligand, conventional ion exchange chromatography, hydrophobic interaction chromatography, reverse phase chromatography or gel filtration may be used.

In additional embodiments of the invention, a recombinant TIE-2 ligand encoding gene may be used to inactivate or "knock out" the endogenous gene by homologous recombination, and thereby create a TIE-2 ligand deficient cell, tissue, or animal. For example, and not by way of limitation, the recombinant TIE-2 ligand encoding gene may be engineered to contain an insertional mutation, for example the neo gene, which would inactivate the native TIE-2 ligand encoding gene. Such a construct, under the control of a suitable promoter, may be introduced into a cell, such as an embryonic stem cell, by a technique such as transfection, transduction, or injection. Cells containing the construct may then be selected by G418 resistance. Cells which lack an intact TIE-2 ligand encoding gene may then be identified, e.g. by Southern blotting, PCR detection, Northern blotting or assay of expression. Cells lacking an intact TIE-2 ligand encoding gene may then be fused to early embryo cells to generate transgenic animals deficient in such ligand. Such an animal may be used to define specific in vivo processes, normally dependent upon the ligand.

The present invention also provides for antibodies to the TIE-2 ligands described herein which are useful for detection of the ligands in, for example, diagnostic applications. For preparation of monoclonal antibodies directed toward TIE-2 ligand, any technique which provides for the production of antibody molecules by continuous cell lines in culture may be used. For example, the hybridoma technique originally developed by Kohler and Milstein (1975, Nature 256:495-497), as well as the trioma technique, the human B-cell hybridoma technique (Kozbor et al., 1983, Immunology Today 4:72), and the EBV-hybridoma technique to produce human monoclonal antibodies (Cole et al., 1985, in "Monoclonal Antibodies and Cancer Therapy," Alan R. Liss, Inc. pp. 77-96) and the like are within the scope of the present invention.

The monoclonal antibodies may be human monoclonal antibodies or chimeric human-mouse (or other species) monoclonal antibodies. Human monoclonal antibodies may be made by any of numerous techniques known in the art (e.g., Teng et al., 1983, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 80:7308-7312; Kozbor et al., 1983, Immunology Today 4:72-79; Olsson et al., 1982, Meth. Enzymol. 92:3-16). Chimeric antibody molecules may be prepared containing a mouse antigen-binding domain with human constant regions (Morrison et al., 1984, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 81:6851, Takeda et al., 1985, Nature 314:452).

Various procedures known in the art may be used for the production of polyclonal antibodies to epitopes of the TIE-2 ligands described herein. For the production of antibody, various host animals can be immunized by injection with a TIE-2 ligand, or a fragment or derivative thereof, including but not limited to rabbits, mice and rats. Various adjuvants may be used to increase the immunological response, depending on the host species, and including but not limited to Freund's (complete and incomplete), mineral gels such as aluminum hydroxide, surface active substances such as lysolecithin, pluronic polyols, polyanions, peptides, oil emulsions, keyhole limpet hemocyanins, dinitrophenol, and potentially useful human adjuvants such as BCG (Bacille Calmette-Guerin) and Corynebacterium parvum.

A molecular clone of an antibody to a selected TIE-2 ligand epitope can be prepared by known techniques. Recombinant DNA methodology (see e.g., Maniatis et al., 1982, Molecular Cloning, A Laboratory Manual, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.) may be used to construct nucleic acid sequences which encode a monoclonal antibody molecule, or antigen binding region thereof.

The present invention provides for antibody molecules as well as fragments of such antibody molecules. Antibody fragments which contain the idiotype of the molecule can be generated by known techniques. For example, such fragments include but are not limited to: the F(ab')2 fragment which can be produced by pepsin digestion of the antibody molecule; the Fab' fragments which can be generated by reducing the disulfide bridges of the F(ab')2 fragment, and the Fab fragments which can be generated by treating the antibody molecule with papain and a reducing agent. Antibody molecules may be purified by known techniques, e.g., immunoabsorption or immunoaffinity chromatography, chromatographic methods such as HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography), or a combination thereof.

The present invention further encompasses an immunoassay for measuring the amount of a TIE-2 ligand in a biological sample by

a) contacting the biological sample with at least one antibody which specifically binds the TIE-2 ligand so that the antibody forms a complex with any TIE-2 ligand present in the sample; and

b) measuring the amount of the complex and thereby measuring the amount of the TIE-2 ligand in the biological sample.

The invention further encompasses an assay for measuring the amount of TIE-2 receptor in a biological sample by

a) contacting the biological sample with at least one ligand of the invention so that the ligand forms a complex with the TIE-2 receptor; and

b) measuring the amount of the complex and thereby measuring the amount of the TIE-2 receptor in the biological sample.

The present invention also provides for the utilization of a TIE-2 ligand to support the survival and/or growth and/or differentiation of TIE-2 receptor expressing cells. Thus, the ligand may be used as a supplement to support, for example, endothelial cells in culture.

Further, the discovery by applicants of a cognate ligand for the TIE-2 receptor enables the utilization of assay systems useful for the identification of agonists or antagonists of the TIE-2 receptor. Such assay systems would be useful in identifying molecules capable of promoting or inhibiting angiogenesis. For example, in one embodiment, antagonists of the TIE-2 receptor may be identified as test molecules that are capable of interfering with the interaction of the TIE-2 receptor with a biologically active TIE-2 ligand. Such antagonists are identified by their ability to 1) block the binding of a biologically active TIE-2 ligand to the receptor as measured, for example, using BIAcore biosensor technology (BIAcore; Pharmacia Biosensor, Piscataway, N.J.); or 2) block the ability of a biologically active TIE-2 ligand to cause a biological response. Such biological responses include, but are not limited to, phosphorylation of the TIE-2 receptor or downstream components of the TIE-2 signal transduction pathway, or survival, growth or differentiation of TIE-2 receptor bearing cells.

In one embodiment, cells engineered to express the TIE-2 receptor may be dependent for growth on the addition of TIE-2 ligand. Such cells provide useful assay systems for identifying additional agonists of the TIE-2 receptor, or antagonists capable of interfering with the activity of TIE-2 ligand on such cells. Alternatively, autocrine cells, engineered to be capable of co-expressing both TIE-2 ligand and receptor, may provide useful systems for assaying potential agonists or antagonists.

Therefore, the present invention provides for introduction of the TIE-2 receptor into cells that do not normally express this receptor, thus allowing these cells to exhibit profound and easily distinguishable responses to a ligand which binds this receptor. The type of response elicited depends on the cell utilized, and not the specific receptor introduced into the cell. Appropriate cell lines can be chosen to yield a response of the greatest utility for assaying, as well as discovering, molecules that can act on tyrosine kinase receptors. The molecules may be any type of molecule, including but not limited to peptide and non-peptide molecules, that will act in systems to be described in a receptor specific manner.

One of the more useful systems to be exploited involves the introduction of the TIE-2 receptor into a fibroblast cell line (e.g., NIH3T3 cells) thus such a receptor which does not normally mediate proliferative responses can, following introduction into fibroblasts, nonetheless be assayed by a variety of well established methods to quantitate effects of fibroblast growth factors (e.g. thymidine incorporation or other types of proliferation assays; see van Zoelen, 1990, "The Use of Biological Assays For Detection Of Polypeptide Growth Factors" in Progress Factor Research, Vol. 2, pp. 131-152; Zhan and M. Goldfarb, 1986, Mol. Cell. Biol., Vol. 6, pp. 3541-3544). These assays have the added advantage that any preparation can be assayed both on the cell line having the introduced receptor as well as the parental cell line lacking the receptor; only specific effects on the cell line with the receptor would be judged as being mediated through the introduced receptor. Such cells may be further engineered to express the TIE-2 ligand, thus creating an autocrine system useful for assaying for molecules that act as antagonists/agonists of this interaction. Thus, the present invention provides for host cells comprising nucleic acid encoding TIE-2 ligand and nucleic acid encoding TIE-2 receptor.

The TIE-2 receptor/TIE-2 ligand interaction also provides a useful system for identifying small molecule agonists or antagonists of the TIE-2 receptor. For example, fragments, mutants or derivatives of a TIE-2 ligand- may be identified that bind the TIE-2 receptor but do not induce biological activity. Alternatively, the characterization of a TIE-2 ligand enables the determination of active portions of the molecule. Further, the identification of a ligand enables the determination of the X-ray crystal structure of the receptor/ligand complex, thus enabling identification of the binding site on the receptor. Knowledge of the binding site will provide useful insight into the rational design of novel agonists and antagonists.

The specific binding of a test molecule to the TIE-2 receptor may be measured in a number of ways. For example, the actual binding of test molecule to cells expressing tie-2 may be detected or measured, by detecting or measuring (i) test molecule bound to the surface of intact cells; (ii) test molecule cross-linked to TIE-2 protein in cell lysates; or (iii) test molecule bound to TIE-2 in vitro. The specific interaction between test molecule and TIE-2 may be evaluated by using reagents that demonstrate the unique properties of that interaction.

As a specific, nonlimiting example, the methods of the invention may be used as follows. Consider a case in which the TIE-2 ligand in a sample is to be measured. Varying dilutions of the sample (the test molecule), in parallel with a negative control (NC) containing no TIE-2 ligand activity, and a positive control (PC) containing a known amount of a TIE-2 ligand, may be exposed to cells that express tie-2 in the presence of a detectably labeled TIE-2 ligand (in this example, radioiodinated ligand). The amount of TIE-2 ligand in the test sample may be evaluated by determining the amount of 125 I-labeled TIE-2 ligand that binds to the controls and in each of the dilutions, and then comparing the sample values to a standard curve. The more TIE-2 ligand in the sample, the less 125 I-ligand that will bind to TIE-2.

The amount of 125 I-ligand bound may be determined by measuring the amount of radioactivity per cell, or by cross-linking the TIE-2 ligand to cell surface proteins using DSS, as described in Meakin and Shooter, 1991, Neuron 6:153-163, and detecting the amount of labeled protein in cell extracts using, for example, SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, which may reveal a labeled protein having a size corresponding to TIE-2 ligand/TIE-2 receptor. The specific test molecule/TIE-2 interaction may further be tested by adding to the assays various dilutions of an unlabeled control ligand that does not bind the TIE-2 receptor and therefore should have no substantial affect on the competition. between labeled TIE-2 ligand and test molecule for TIE-2 binding. Alternatively, a molecule known to be able to disrupt TIE-2 ligand/TIE-2 binding, such as, but not limited to, anti-TIE-2 antibody, or TIE-2 receptorbody as described herein, may be expected to interfere with the competition between 1251-TIE-2 ligand and test molecule for TIE-2 receptor binding.

Detectably labeled TIE-2 ligand includes, but is not limited to, TIE-2 ligand linked covalently or noncovalently to a radioactive substance, a fluorescent substance, a substance that has enzymatic activity, a substance that may serve as a substrate for an enzyme (enzymes and substrates associated with colorimetrically detectable reactions are preferred) or to a substance that can be recognized by an antibody molecule that is preferably a detectably labeled antibody molecule.

Alternatively, the specific binding of test molecule to TIE-2 may be measured by evaluating the secondary biological effects of TIE-2 ligand/TIE-2 receptor binding, including, but not limited to, cell growth and/or differentiation or immediate early gene expression or phosphorylation of TIE-2. For example, the ability of the test molecule to induce differentiation can be tested in cells that lack tie-2 and in comparable cells that express tie-2; differentiation in tie-2-expressing cells but not in comparable cells that lack tie-2 would be indicative of a specific test molecule/TIE-2 interaction. A similar analysis could be performed by detecting immediate early gene (e.g. fos and jun) induction in tie-2-minus and tie-2-plus cells, or by detecting phosphorylation of TIE-2 using standard phosphorylation assays known in the art. Such analysis might be useful in identifying agonists or antagonists that do not competitively bind to TIE-2.

Similarly, the present invention provides for a method of identifying an molecule that has the biological activity of a TIE-2 ligand comprising (i) exposing a cell that expresses tie-2 to a test molecule and (ii) detecting the specific binding of the test molecule to TIE-2 receptor, in which specific binding to TIE-2 positively correlates with TIE-2 like activity. Specific binding may be detected by either assaying for direct binding or the secondary biological effects of binding, as discussed supra. Such a method may be particularly useful in identifying new members of the TIE ligand family or, in the pharmaceutical industry, in screening a large array of peptide and non-peptide molecules (e.g., peptidomimetics) for TIE associated biological activity. In a preferred, specific, nonlimiting embodiment of the invention, a large grid of culture wells may be prepared that contain, in alternate rows, PC12 (or fibroblasts, see infra) cells that are either tie-2-minus or engineered to be tie-2-plus. A variety of test molecules may then be added such that each column of the grid, or a portion thereof, contains a different test molecule. Each well could then be scored for the presence or absence of growth and/or differentiation. An extremely large number of test molecules could be screened for such activity in this manner.

In additional embodiments, the invention provides for methods of detecting or measuring TIE-like activity or identifying a molecule as having such activity comprising (i) exposing a test molecule to a TIE-2 receptor protein in vitro under conditions that permit binding to occur and (ii) detecting binding of the test molecule to the TIE-2 protein, in which binding of test molecule to TIE-2 correlates with TIE-like activity. According to such methods, the TIE-2 may or may not be substantially purified, may be affixed to a solid support (e.g. as an affinity column or as an ELISA assay), or may be incorporated into an artificial membrane. Binding of test molecule to TIE-2 may be evaluated by any method known in the art. In preferred embodiments, the binding of test molecule may be detected or measured by evaluating its ability to compete with detectably labeled known TIE-2 ligands for TIE-2 receptor binding.

The present invention also provides for a method of detecting the ability of a test molecule to function as an antagonist of TIE-like activity comprising detecting the ability of the molecule to inhibit an effect of TIE ligand binding to TIE-2 on a cell that expresses tie-2. Such an antagonist may or may not interfere with TIE-2 ligand/TIE-2 receptor binding. Effects of TIE-2 ligand binding to TIE-2 receptor are preferably biological or biochemical effects, including, but not limited to, cell survival or proliferation, cell transformation, immediate early gene induction, or TIE-2 phosphorylation.

The invention further provides for both a method of identifying antibodies or other molecules capable of neutralizing the ligand or blocking binding to the receptor, as well as the molecules identified by the method. By way of nonlimiting example, the method may be performed via an assay which is conceptually similar to an ELISA assay. For example, TIE receptorbody may be bound to a solid support, such as a plastic multiwell plate. As a control, a known amount of TIE ligand which has been Myc-tagged may then be introduced to the well and any tagged TIE ligand which binds the receptorbody may then be identified by means of a reporter antibody directed against the Myc-tag. This assay system may then be used to screen test samples for molecules which are capable of i) binding to the tagged ligand or ii) binding to the receptorbody and thereby blocking binding to the receptorbody by the tagged ligand. For example, a test sample containing a putative molecule of interest together with a known amount of tagged ligand may be introduced to the well and the amount of tagged ligand which binds to the receptorbody may be measured. By comparing the amount of bound tagged ligand in the test sample to the amount in the control, samples containing molecules which are capable of blocking ligand binding to the receptor may be identified. The molecules of interest thus identified may be isolated using methods well known to one of skill in the art.

Once a blocker of ligand binding is found, one of skill in the art would know to perform secondary assays to determine whether the blocker is binding to the receptor or to the ligand, as well as assays to determine if the blocker molecule can neutralize the biological activity of the ligand. For example, by using a binding assay which employs BIAcore biosensor technology (or the equivalent), in which either TIE receptorbody or TIE ligand is covalently attached to a solid support (e.g. carboxymethyl dextran on a gold surface), one of skill in the art would be able to determine if the blocker molecule is binding specifically to the ligand or to the receptorbody. To determine if the blocker molecule can neutralize the biological activity of the ligand, one of skill in the art could perform a phosphorylation assay (see Example 5) or alternatively, a functional bioassay, such as a survival assay, by using primary cultures of, for example, endothelial cells. Alternatively, a blocker molecule which binds to the receptorbody could be an agonist and one of skill in the art would know to how to determine this by performing an appropriate assay for identifying additional agonists of the TIE-2 receptor.

Because TIE-2 receptor has been identified in association with endothelial cells and, as demonstrated herein, blocking of the ligand appears to prevent vascularization, applicants have demonstrated that the TIE-2 ligand will be useful for the induction of vascularization in diseases or disorders where such vascularization is indicated. Such diseases or disorders would include wound healing, ischaemia and diabetes. On the other hand, antagonists of the TIE-2 receptor, such as receptorbodies as described herein in Examples 2 and 3, and TIE-2 ligand 2 as described in Example 9, would be useful to prevent or attenuate vascularization, thus preventing or attenuating, for example, tumor growth.

The present invention also provides for pharmaceutical compositions comprising the TIE-2 ligands described herein, peptide fragments thereof, or derivatives in a pharmacologically acceptable vehicle. The TIE-2 ligand proteins, peptide fragments, or derivatives may be administered systemically or locally. Any appropriate mode of administration known in the art may be used, including, but not limited to, intravenous, intrathecal, intraarterial, intranasal, oral, subcutaneous, intraperitoneal, or by local injection or surgical implant. Sustained release formulations are also provided for.

The present invention further provides for an isolated and purified nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleic acid sequence encoding a human TIE-2 ligand, wherein the nucleic acid sequence is selected from the group consisting of:

(a) the nucleic acid sequence comprising the coding region of the human TIE-2 ligand as set forth in FIGS. 6A-F;

(b) a nucleic acid sequence that hybridizes under moderately stringent conditions to the nucleic acid sequence of (a) and which encodes a TIE-2 ligand that binds TIE-2 receptor; and

(c) a nucleic acid sequence that is degenerate as a result of the genetic code to a nucleic acid sequence of (a) or (b), and which encodes a TIE-2 ligand that binds TIE-2 receptor.

The present invention further provides for an isolated and purified human TIE-2 ligand encoded by an isolated nucleic acid molecule of the invention. The invention also provides a vector which comprises an isolated nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleic acid sequence encoding a human TIE-2 ligand. In one embodiment, the vector is designated as pBluescript KS encoding human TIE 2 ligand 2.

The invention further provides for an expression vector comprising a DNA molecule encoding a human TIE-2 ligand, wherein the DNA molecule is operatively linked to an expression control sequence. The invention also provides a host-vector system for the production of a polypeptide having the biological activity of a human TIE-2 ligand which comprises the expression vector of the invention in a suitable host cell. In one embodiment, the suitable host cell may be a bacterial cell, yeast cell, insect cell, or mammalian cell. The invention further provides for a method of producing a polypeptide having the activity of a biologically active TIE-2 ligand which comprises growing cells of the host-vector system of the invention, under conditions permitting production of the polypeptide and recovering the polypeptide so produced.

The invention herein described of an isolated nucleic acid molecule encoding a TIE-2 ligand further provides for the development of the ligand, a fragment or derivative thereof, or another molecule which is a receptor agonist or antagonist, as a therapeutic for the treatment of patients suffering from disorders involving cells, tissues or organs which express the TIE receptor. The present invention also provides for an antibody which specifically binds such a therapeutic molecule. The antibody may be monoclonal or polyclonal. The invention also provides for a method of using such a monoclonal or polyclonal antibody to measure the amount of the therapeutic molecule in a sample taken from a patient for purposes of monitoring the course of therapy.

The invention further provides for a therapeutic composition comprising a human TIE-2 ligand and a cytotoxic agent conjugated thereto. In one embodiment, the cytotoxic agent may be a radioisotope or toxin.

The invention also provides for an antibody which specifically binds a human TIE-2 ligand. The antibody may be monoclonal or polyclonal.

The invention further provides for a method of purifying a human TIE-2 ligand comprising:

a) coupling at least one TIE-2 binding substrate to a solid matrix;

b) incubating the substrate of a) with a cell lysate so that the substrate forms a complex with any human TIE-2 ligand in the cell lysate;

c) washing the solid matrix; and

d) eluting the human TIE-2 ligand from the coupled substrate.

The substrate may be any substance that specifically binds the human TIE-2 ligand. In one embodiment, the substrate is selected from the group consisting of anti-TIE-2 ligand antibody, TIE-2 receptor and TIE-2 receptorbody. The invention further provides for a receptorbody which specifically binds a human TIE-2 ligand, as well as a therapeutic composition comprising the receptorbody in a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle, and a method of blocking blood vessel growth in a human comprising administering an effective amount of the therapeutic composition.

The invention also provides for a therapeutic composition comprising a human TIE-2 ligand in a pharmaceutically acceptable vehicle, as well as a method of promoting neovascularization in a patient comprising administering to the patient an effective amount of the therapeutic composition.

In addition, the present invention provides for a method for identifying a cell which expresses TIE-2 receptor which comprises contacting a cell with a detectably labeled TIE-2 ligand, under conditions permitting binding of the detectably labeled ligand to the TIE-2 receptor and determining whether the detectably labeled ligand is bound to the TIE-2 receptor, thereby identifying the cell as one which expresses TIE-2 receptor. The present invention also provides for a therapeutic composition comprising a TIE-2 ligand and a cytotoxic agent conjugated thereto. The cytotoxic agent may be a radioisotope or toxin.

The invention also provides a method of detecting expression of TIE-2 ligand by a cell which comprises obtaining mRNA from the cell, contacting the mRNA so obtained with a labelled nucleic acid molecule encoding a TIE-2 ligand, under hybridizing conditions, determining the presence of mRNA hybridized to the labelled molecule, and thereby detecting the expression of the TIE-2 ligand in the cell.

The invention further provides a method of detecting expression of a TIE-2 ligand in tissue sections which comprises contacting the tissue sections with a labelled nucleic acid molecule encoding a TIE-2 ligand, under hybridizing conditions, determining the presence of mRNA hybridized to the labelled molecule, and thereby detecting the expression of the TIE-2 ligand in tissue sections.

Claim 1 of 2 Claims

What is claimed is:

1. A method of blocking blood vessel growth in a human comprising administering an effective amount of a composition comprising isolated and purified human TIE-2 ligand as set forth in SEQ ID NO:6.




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