Systematic characterization and comparative analysis of the rabbit immunoglobulin repertoire

PLoS One. 2014 Jun 30;9(6):e101322. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101322. eCollection 2014.


Rabbits have been used extensively as a model system for the elucidation of the mechanism of immunoglobulin diversification and for the production of antibodies. We employed Next Generation Sequencing to analyze Ig germline V and J gene usage, CDR3 length and amino acid composition, and gene conversion frequencies within the functional (transcribed) IgG repertoire of the New Zealand white rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Several previously unannotated rabbit heavy chain variable (VH) and light chain variable (VL) germline elements were deduced bioinformatically using multidimensional scaling and k-means clustering methods. We estimated the gene conversion frequency in the rabbit at 23% of IgG sequences with a mean gene conversion tract length of 59±36 bp. Sequencing and gene conversion analysis of the chicken, human, and mouse repertoires revealed that gene conversion occurs much more extensively in the chicken (frequency 70%, tract length 79±57 bp), was observed to a small, yet statistically significant extent in humans, but was virtually absent in mice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Gene Conversion
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / chemistry
  • Immunoglobulin G / classification*
  • Immunoglobulin G / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Mice
  • Organ Specificity
  • Rabbits / immunology*
  • Species Specificity


  • Immunoglobulin G

Grants and funding

This work was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, grant HR0011-10-0052 and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA, grant HDTRA1-12-COO07. JJL was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT, The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.