Broad ranges of affinity and specificity of anti-histone antibodies revealed by a quantitative peptide immunoprecipitation assay

J Mol Biol. 2012 Dec 14;424(5):391-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2012.09.022. Epub 2012 Oct 2.


Antibodies directed against histone posttranslational modifications (PTMs) are critical tools in epigenetics research, particularly in the widely used chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) experiments. However, a lack of quantitative methods for characterizing such antibodies has been a major bottleneck in accurate and reproducible analysis of histone modifications. Here, we report a simple and sensitive method for quantitatively characterizing polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies for histone PTMs in a ChIP-like format. Importantly, it determines the apparent dissociation constants for the interactions of an antibody with peptides harboring cognate or off-target PTMs. Analyses of commercial antibodies revealed large ranges of affinity, specificity and binding capacity as well as substantial lot-to-lot variations, suggesting the importance of quantitatively characterizing each antibody intended to be used in ChIP experiments and optimizing experimental conditions accordingly. Furthermore, using this method, we identified additional factors potentially affecting the interpretation of ChIP experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / classification
  • Antibodies / immunology*
  • Antibody Affinity*
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation / methods*
  • Histones / immunology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Antibodies
  • Histones