Phage display of antibody fragments

Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2000 Sep;1(2):155-69. doi: 10.2174/1389203003381397.


In recent years, phage display of peptides and proteins has become a very popular method in oncology, immunology, protein engineering and ligand-receptor studies among others. Antibody fragments, as Fabs or single chain Fv, have been among the first proteins to be displayed on the surface of a filamentous bacteriophage with a procedure initially described in 1990 by McCafferty et al. (Nature, 348, 552-554). From that time, molecular biology techniques have allowed the creation of large repertoires of antibody fragments from antibody V genes, bypassing hybrydoma technology and even immunisation. A large number of phage antibody libraries, from which molecules of the desired functional properties can be rapidly selected, have been built and distributed in many laboratories world-wide. Antibody fragments recovered from phage libraries generally show moderate binding strength; with different systems of biopanning binders can be obtained with dissociation constant ranged between 10-(5) to 10-(8) M. Nevertheless, antibody fragments can be furtherly modified to improve affinity or avidity, respectively by mutating crucial residues of complementarity determining regions or by increasing the number of binding sites making dimeric, trimeric or multimeric molecules. Here, we summarise the latest progress in this field, with particular reference to applications of scFv in the diagnosis and therapy of solid tumours and in the molecular mimicry of viral antigens and membrane receptors. In fact, the production of artificial protein epitopes by phage antibodies is becoming a valid system to overcome problems caused by difficult cloning and low expression of particular recombinant proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibody Affinity
  • Antigen-Antibody Reactions
  • Bacteriophage M13 / genetics
  • Bacteriophage M13 / metabolism
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments* / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments* / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments* / metabolism
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin G / metabolism
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Peptide Library*


  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Peptide Library