A proteomics approach for the identification and cloning of monoclonal antibodies from serum

Nat Biotechnol. 2012 Mar 25;30(5):447-52. doi: 10.1038/nbt.2167.


We describe a proteomics approach that identifies antigen-specific antibody sequences directly from circulating polyclonal antibodies in the serum of an immunized animal. The approach involves affinity purification of antibodies with high specific activity and then analyzing digested antibody fractions by nano-flow liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry. High-confidence peptide spectral matches of antibody variable regions are obtained by searching a reference database created by next-generation DNA sequencing of the B-cell immunoglobulin repertoire of the immunized animal. Finally, heavy and light chain sequences are paired and expressed as recombinant monoclonal antibodies. Using this technology, we isolated monoclonal antibodies for five antigens from the sera of immunized rabbits and mice. The antigen-specific activities of the monoclonal antibodies recapitulate or surpass those of the original affinity-purified polyclonal antibodies. This technology may aid the discovery and development of vaccines and antibody therapeutics, and help us gain a deeper understanding of the humoral response.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / chemistry
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / chemistry*
  • Antibody Specificity / genetics
  • B-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Blood Proteins / chemistry*
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Immunoglobulin G / chemistry
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Proteomics / methods*
  • Rabbits
  • Receptors, Progesterone / chemistry
  • Serum / immunology
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry / methods


  • Antibodies
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Blood Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region
  • Receptors, Progesterone