Antibodies stand between us and pathogens. Viruses mutate quickly to avoid detection, and antibodies mutate at similar rates to hunt them down. This death spiral is fueled by specialized proteins and error-prone polymerases that change DNA sequences. Here, we explore how B lymphocytes stay in the race by expressing activation-induced deaminase, which unleashes a tsunami of mutations in the immunoglobulin loci. This produces random DNA substitutions, followed by selection for the highest affinity antibodies. We may be able to manipulate the process to produce better antibodies by expanding the repertoire of specific B cells through successive vaccinations.
Gearhart, P. J., Castiblanco, D. P., & Russell Knode, L. M. (2015). Exceptional Antibodies Produced by Successive Immunizations. PLoS Biology, 13(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002321