Linker design is crucial to the success of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs). In this work, we developed a modular linker format for attaching molecular cargos to antibodies based on strand pairing between complementary oligonucleotides. We prepared antibody-oligonucleotide conjugates (AOCs) by attaching 18-mer oligonucleotides to an anti-HER2 antibody through thiol-maleimide chemistry, a method generally applicable to any immunoglobulin with interchain disulfide bridges. The hybridization of drug-bearing complementary oligonucleotides to our AOCs was rapid, stoichiometric, and sequence-specific. AOCs loaded with cytotoxic payloads were able to selectively target HER2-overexpressing cell lines such as SK-BR-3 and N87, with in vitro potencies similar to that of the marketed ADC Kadcyla (T-DM1). Our results demonstrated the potential of utilizing AOCs as a highly versatile and modular platform, where a panel of well-characterized AOCs bearing DNA, RNA, or various nucleic acid analogs, such as peptide nucleic acids, could be easily paired with any cargo of choice for a wide range of diagnostic or therapeutic applications.
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