Rapid isolation of cloned isotype switch variants using fluorescence activated cell sorting


  • Supported by Grants GM17367 and A108917 from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.


We have used highly specific, directly fluorescein-conjugated heterologous (conventional) and monoclonal antibodies directed against mouse immunoglobulin isotypes in conjunction with the fluorescence activated cell sorter (FACS) to enrich and clone hybridoma cells producing new immunoglobulin heavy chain constant regions. Each variant retains the parental heavy chain variable region and the parental immunoglobulin light chain; thereby each variant binds the same dansyl (DNS) hapten. These isotype switch variants occur at frequencies of approximately 10−5 to 10−6. We were able to isolate the variants by first sorting for an approximate 1000-fold enrichment of the desired immunoglobulin-producing cells, growing these cells for five to nine days, followed by a second 1000-fold enrichment and direct cell cloning into 96 well culture trays. Clones were screened only 3–5 weeks after the original selection for secretion of dansyl-binding immunoglobulin of the selected isotype. Judicious combination of existing methods permits improved analytical techniques using the cell sorter. These include: first, “red” fluorescence staining of dead cells with ethidium bromide or propidium iodide and using the red fluorescence measurement to exclude dead cells from the green fluorescence selection; and second, the use logarithmic amplification of fluorescence signals, allowing for more succinct selection of fluorescence parameters for sorting.