Chimeric proteins can exceed the sum of their parts: implications for evolution and protein design

Robert K. Campbell, Elizabeth R. Bergert, Yanhong Wang, John C. Morris, William R. Moyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Chimeric analogs derived from pairs of homologous proteins routinely exhibit activities found in one or both parents. We describe chimeras of two glycoprotein hormones, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and human follitropin (hFSH), that exhibit activity unique to a third family member, human thy-rotropin (hTSH). The results show that biological activity can be separated from hormone-specific amino acid residues. This is consistent with a model for the evolution of homologous ligand–receptor pairs involving gene duplication and the creation of inhibitory determinants that restrict binding. Disruption of these determinants can unmask activities characteristic of other members of a protein family. Combining portions of two ligands to create analogs with properties of a third family member can facilitate identifying key determinants of protein–protein interaction and may be a useful strategy for creating novel therapeutics. In the case of the glycoprotein hormones, this showed that two different hormone regions (i.e., the seat-belt and the intersubunit groove) appear to limit inappropriate contacts with receptors for other members of this family. These observations also have important caveats for chimera-based protein design because an unexpected gain of function may limit the therapeutic usefulness of some chimeras.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439-443
Number of pages5
JournalNature biotechnology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1997


  • Chimeric proteins
  • Evolution
  • Human chorionic gonadotropin
  • Protein-protein interactions
  • Thyrotropin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biomedical Engineering


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