Impact of immunization technology and assay application on antibody performance - a systematic comparative evaluation

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Antibodies are quintessential affinity reagents for the investigation and determination of a protein's expression patterns, localization, quantitation, modifications, purification, and functional understanding. Antibodies are typically used in techniques such as Western blot, immunohistochemistry (IHC), and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), among others. The methods employed to generate antibodies can have a profound impact on their success in any of these applications. We raised antibodies against 10 serum proteins using 3 immunization methods: peptide antigens (3 per protein), DNA prime/protein fragment-boost ("DNA immunization"; 3 per protein), and full length protein. Antibodies thus generated were systematically evaluated using several different assay technologies (ELISA, IHC, and Western blot). Antibodies raised against peptides worked predominantly in applications where the target protein was denatured (57% success in Western blot, 66% success in immunohistochemistry), although 37% of the antibodies thus generated did not work in any of these applications. In contrast, antibodies produced by DNA immunization performed well against both denatured and native targets with a high level of success: 93% success in Western blots, 100% success in immunohistochemistry, and 79% success in ELISA. Importantly, success in one assay method was not predictive of success in another. Immunization with full length protein consistently yielded the best results; however, this method is not typically available for new targets, due to the difficulty of generating full length protein. We conclude that DNA immunization strategies which are not encumbered by the limitations of efficacy (peptides) or requirements for full length proteins can be quite successful, particularly when multiple constructs for each protein are used.




Brown, M. C., Joaquim, T. R., Chambers, R., Onisk, D. V., Yin, F., Moriango, J. M., … Lindpaintner, K. (2011). Impact of immunization technology and assay application on antibody performance - a systematic comparative evaluation. PLoS ONE, 6(12).

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