Development of antibodies against the notch ligand Delta-Like-1 by phage display with activity against breast cancer cells

Joana Sales-Dias, Andreia Ferreira, Márcia Lamy, Giacomo Domenici, Sandra M.S. Monteiro, António Pires, Ana R. Lemos, Khrystyna Kucheryava, Lígia S. Nobre, Pedro M.F. Sousa, Tiago M. Bandeiras, Gabriela Silva, Ana Barbas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Notch signalling is a well-established oncogenic pathway, and its ligand Delta-like 1 (DLL1) is overexpressed in estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancers and associated with poor patient prognosis. Hence, DLL1 has become an interesting therapeutic target for breast cancer. Here, the development of specific functional blocking anti-DLL1 antibodies with potential activity against ER+ breast cancer cells is reported. Human DLL1 proteins, containing the essential regions for binding to the Notch receptor and Notch signalling activation, were produced and used to select specific scFv antibody fragments by phage display. Fifteen unique scFvs were identified and reformatted into full IgGs. Characterization of these antibodies by ELISA, surface plasmon resonance and flow cytometry enabled selection of three specific anti-DLL1 IgGs, sharing identical VH regions, with nM affinities. Cellular assays on ER+ breast cancer MCF-7 cells showed that one of the IgGs (IgG-69) was able to partially impair DLL1-mediated activation of the Notch pathway, as determined by Notch reporter and RT-qPCR assays, and to attenuate cell growth. Treatment of MCF-7 cells with IgG-69 reduced mammosphere formation, suggesting that it decreases the breast cancer stem cell subpopulation. These results support the use of this strategy to develop and identify potential anti-DLL1 antibodies candidates against breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
JournalNew Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2021


  • Antibodies
  • Breast cancer
  • DLL1
  • Notch signalling
  • Phage display


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