A simplified workflow for monoclonal antibody sequencing

PLoS One. 2019 Jun 24;14(6):e0218717. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218717. eCollection 2019.


The diversity of antibody variable regions makes cDNA sequencing challenging, and conventional monoclonal antibody cDNA amplification requires the use of degenerate primers. Here, we describe a simplified workflow for amplification of IgG antibody variable regions from hybridoma RNA by a specialized RT-PCR followed by Sanger sequencing. We perform three separate reactions for each hybridoma: one each for kappa, lambda, and heavy chain transcripts. We prime reverse transcription with a primer specific to the respective constant region and use a template-switch oligonucleotide, which creates a custom sequence at the 5' end of the antibody cDNA. This template-switching circumvents the issue of low sequence homology and the need for degenerate primers. Instead, subsequent PCR amplification of the antibody cDNA molecules requires only two primers: one primer specific for the template-switch oligonucleotide sequence and a nested primer to the respective constant region. We successfully sequenced the variable regions of five mouse monoclonal IgG antibodies using this method, which enabled us to design chimeric mouse/human antibody expression plasmids for recombinant antibody production in mammalian cell culture expression systems. All five recombinant antibodies bind their respective antigens with high affinity, confirming that the amino acid sequences determined by our method are correct and demonstrating the high success rate of our method. Furthermore, we also designed RT-PCR primers and amplified the variable regions from RNA of cells transfected with chimeric mouse/human antibody expression plasmids, showing that our approach is also applicable to IgG antibodies of human origin. Our monoclonal antibody sequencing method is highly accurate, user-friendly, and very cost-effective.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / genetics*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / metabolism
  • Antigen-Antibody Reactions
  • DNA Primers / genetics
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Hybridomas / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin G / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / immunology
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein / methods*
  • Workflow


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins