One direct route for the discovery of therapeutic human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) involves the isolation of peripheral B cells from survivors/sero-positive individuals after exposure to an infectious reagent or disease etiology, followed by single-cell sequencing or hybridoma generation. Peripheral B cells, however, are not always easy to obtain and represent only a small percentage of the total B-cell population across all bodily tissues. Although it has been demonstrated that tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) techniques can interrogate the full polyclonal antibody (pAb) response to an antigen in vivo, all current approaches identify MS/MS spectra against databases derived from genetic sequencing of B cells from the same patient. In this proof-of-concept study, we demonstrate the feasibility of a novel MS/MS antibody discovery approach in which only serum antibodies are required without the need for sequencing of genetic material. Peripheral pAbs from a cytomegalovirus-exposed individual were purified by glycoprotein B antigen affinity and de novo sequenced from MS/MS data. Purely MS-derived mAbs were then manufactured in mammalian cells to validate potency via antigen-binding ELISA. Interestingly, we found that these mAbs accounted for 1 to 2% of total donor IgG but were not detected in parallel sequencing of memory B cells from the same patient.
Keywords: B cell; antibody discovery; de novo sequencing; mass spectrometry; monoclonal antibody; polyclonal antibody; shotgun protein sequencing.