Avian IgY antibodies and their recombinant equivalents in research, diagnostics and therapy

Biologicals. 2012 Sep;40(5):313-22. doi: 10.1016/j.biologicals.2012.05.003. Epub 2012 Jun 28.


The generation and use of avian antibodies is of increasing interest in a wide variety of applications within the life sciences. Due to their phylogenetic distance, mechanisms of immune diversification and the way in which they deposit IgY immunoglobulin in the egg yolk, chickens provide a number of advantages compared to mammals as hosts for immunization. These advantages include: the one-step purification of antibodies from egg yolk in large amounts facilitates having a virtually continuous supply; the epitope spectrum of avian antibodies potentially grants access to novel specificities; the broad absence of cross-reactivity with mammalian epitopes avoids assay interference and improves the performance of immunological techniques. The polyclonal nature of IgY antibodies has limited their use since avian hybridoma techniques are not well established. Recombinant IgY, however, can be generated from mammalian monoclonal antibodies which makes it possible to further exploit the advantageous properties of the IgY scaffold. Moreover, cloning and selecting the immune repertoire from avian organisms is highly efficient, yielding antigen-specific antibody fragments. The recombinant approach is well suited to circumvent any limitations of polyclonal antibodies. This review presents comprehensive information on the generation, purification, modification and applications of polyclonal and monoclonal IgY antibodies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / pharmacology
  • Antibodies / therapeutic use
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Birds / blood
  • Birds / immunology*
  • Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures*
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Immunoglobulins / blood
  • Immunoglobulins / pharmacology*
  • Immunoglobulins / therapeutic use*
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Recombinant Proteins / blood
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Therapeutic Equivalency


  • Antibodies
  • IgY
  • Immunoglobulins
  • Recombinant Proteins