Engineering humoral immunity as prophylaxis or therapy

Curr Opin Immunol. 2015 Aug;35:113-22. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2015.06.014. Epub 2015 Jul 14.


Purpose of the review: In this review, we will discuss the field of engineered humoral immunity with an emphasis on recent work using viral vectors to produce antibodies in vivo. As an alternative to passive transfer of monoclonal antibody protein, a transgene encoding an antibody is delivered to cells via vector transduction, resulting in expression and secretion by the host cell. This review will summarize the evidence in support of this strategy as an alternative to traditional vaccines against infection and as novel therapeutics for a variety of diseases.

Recent findings: Historically, humoral immunity has been engineered through vaccination and passive transfer of monoclonal antibodies. However, recent work suggests that vectors can be used to deliver transgenes encoding broadly neutralizing antibodies to non-hematopoietic tissues and can mediate long-term expression that is capable of preventing or treating infectious diseases. The production of engineered monoclonal antibodies allows for precise targeting and elimination of aberrant self-proteins that are characteristic of certain neurodegenerative disease. This approach has also been successfully used to combat cancer and addiction in several animal models. Despite the wide array of expression platforms that have been described, adeno-associated virus vectors have emerged as the frontrunner for rapid clinical translation.

Summary: Recent advances in vector-mediated antibody expression have demonstrated the potential for such interventions to prevent infection and treat disease. As such, it offers an alternative to immunogen-based vaccine design and a novel therapeutic intervention by enabling precise manipulation of humoral immunity. Success translating these approaches to patients may enable the development of effective prevention against previously intractable pathogens that evade immunity such as HIV, influenza, malaria or HCV and may also enable new treatment options for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / genetics
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / metabolism*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Infections / immunology
  • Infections / therapy*
  • Protein Engineering
  • Transgenes / genetics
  • Vaccines / immunology


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Vaccines