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Exploiting the avian immunoglobulin system to simplify the generation of recombinant antibodies to allergenic proteins


  • The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the authors and are not the official opinion of the Department of Health and Human Services or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

J. E. Slater, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, US Food and Drug Administration, 29 Lincoln Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Background Monoclonal antibodies are a valuable tool in the study of allergens, but the technology used in their generation can be slow and labour-intensive. Therefore, we have examined recombinant antibody development by phage-display against single allergens and protein mixtures.

Objective We used the avian immunoglobulin system (generated from single VH and VL genes) to provide a rapid method for generating highly specific recombinant antibody fragments from a minimal number of animals.

Methods A single-chain antibody fragment (scFv) library was generated from a single chicken immunized with model allergens. ScFvs were isolated by phage-display and their properties investigated by ELISA and Western blot.

Results Mono-specific scFvs were generated against recombinant Fel d 1 and native Amb a 1. Pannings against yellow jacket venom extracts only yielded clones that reacted with multiple proteins in the venom extract. The scFvs from each panning type were effectively expressed in Escherichia coli and readily purified. Highly specific and sensitive recognition of Fel d 1 and Amb a 1 was demonstrated in ELISA, with scFvs displaying antibody-concentration-dependent absorbance curves down to picogram levels of antibody. The specificity of selected antibodies for their cognate antigen was further confirmed in Western blot analysis, with scFvs directed to either Fel d 1 or Amb a 1 showing no reactivity for the other antigens used in immunization. Anti-Amb a 1 scFvs also mapped Amb a 1-isoform location in Western blot of ragweed extracts separated by 2D SDS-PAGE. DNA sequence analysis of scFvs showed that multiple different clones had been generated against Fel d 1 and Amb a 1. Using two anti-Fel d 1 scFv for ELISA analysis of Fel d 1 content in crude cat pelt extracts, we could produce data which were highly similar (P=0.33 and 0.89 by paired t-test analysis) to those obtained using conventional assays (radial immunodiffusion).

Conclusion Phage-display technology may generate multiple allergen-specific recombinant antibody fragments from a single chicken, to allergens from mammalian, plant and insect sources. The resulting antibody fragments are of demonstrable use in allergen identification and quantification, in comparison with standard immunoassays.

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