Rationalizing Random Walks: Replicating Protective Antibody Trajectories

Trends Immunol. 2021 Mar;42(3):186-197. doi: 10.1016/j.it.2021.01.001. Epub 2021 Jan 26.


'Reverse vaccinology 2.0' aims to rationally reproduce template antibody responses, such as broadly neutralizing antibodies against human immunodeficiency virus-1. While observations of antibody convergence across individuals support the assumption that responses may be replicated, the diversity of humoral immunity and the process of antibody selection are rooted in stochasticity. Drawing from experience with in vitro antibody engineering by directed evolution, we consider how antibody selection may be driven, as in germline-targeting vaccine approaches to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies and illustrate the potential consequences of over-defining a template antibody response. We posit that the prospective definition of template antibody responses and the odds of replicating them must be considered within the randomness of humoral immunity.

Keywords: antibody engineering; antibody selection; directed evolution; germline targeting; rational vaccine design; reverse vaccinology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Neutralizing*
  • Antibody Formation
  • HIV Antibodies
  • HIV-1*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • HIV Antibodies