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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences

First Advisor

Bhaskara R. Jasti

First Committee Member

Xiaoling Li

Second Committee Member

Jerry Tsai


Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) is a type 1 transmembrane protein that has been reported to play a vital role in mediating suppressed immunity. The interaction between PD-L1 and PD-1 delivers a negative signal that reduces the proliferation of these T cells and induces apoptosis at the same time. Antibodies that can block the Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) on tumor cells have been shown to alleviate cancer-induced immunosuppression. While antibodies have a great potential in various therapeutic uses, many drawbacks such as the high cost of production, huge molecular size, and poor permeability impose restrictions on the extensive use of full-length antibodies. These limitations have necessitated research for finding alternatives to antibodies, such as peptides, that have lower molecular weight and similar properties as antibodies but do not have the lengthy and complicated approach of producing antibodies.

In this study, a novel approach based on molecular interactions of the PD1-PD-L1 complex was developed to design peptides against PD-L1 using Knob-Socket model as basis. Three generations of peptides, α-helix, over-packed and salt bridge function peptides, were designed. All designed peptides were docked in the Molecular Operating Environment (MOE) and the AutoDock Vina software for the docking energy and the detail interaction information. Synthesis and characterization of selected peptides were performed after simulation studies. Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) studies showed that α-helix and over-packed peptides can’t bind to the PD-L1 protein with no response on sensorgrams, while peptides with salt bridge function had a higher binding response than those two generations of peptides. In confocal microscopic studies, PD-L1 positive breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 was used to determine the binding specificity of the salt bridge function peptides to PD-L1 in vitro, while another breast cancer cell line (MCF-7, without PD-L1) was used as a control. After incubation with peptides, significant fluorescence intensities were detected on the MDA-MB-231 cells, while only background fluorescence was observed on MCF-7 cells.

In conclusion, this study demonstrated that peptides against PD-L1 designed using the Knob-Socket model and molecular interaction between PD-L1-PD1 complex showed feasibility to bind specifically with PD-L1 receptors.





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