Making antibodies by phage display technology

Annu Rev Immunol. 1994;12:433-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev.iy.12.040194.002245.


Antibody fragments of predetermined binding specificity have recently been constructed from repertoires of antibody V genes, bypassing hybridoma technology and even immunization. The V gene repertoires are harvested from populations of lymphocytes, or assembled in vitro, and cloned for display of associated heavy and light chain variable domains on the surface of filamentous bacteriophage. Rare phage are selected from the repertoire by binding to antigen; soluble antibody fragments are expressed from infected bacteria; and the affinity of binding of selected antibodies is improved by mutation. The process mimics immune selection, and antibodies with many different binding specificities have been isolated from the same phage repertoire. Thus human antibody fragments have been isolated with specificities against both foreign and self antigens, including haptens, carbohydrates, secreted and cell surface proteins, viral coat proteins, and intracellular antigens from the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum and the nucleus. Such antibodies have potential as reagents for research and in therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Affinity
  • Antibody Formation / immunology*
  • Bacteriophages / immunology*
  • Gene Rearrangement
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region / genetics*
  • Immunologic Techniques*
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Recombinant Proteins / immunology


  • Immunoglobulin Fragments
  • Immunoglobulin Variable Region
  • Recombinant Proteins