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The highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of the H5 subtype, such as the H5N1 viral strains or the novel H5N8 and H5N2 reassortants, are of both veterinary and public health concern worldwide. To combat these viruses, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against H5 hemagglutinin (HA) play a significant role. These mAbs are effective diagnostic and therapeutic agents and powerful tools in vaccine development and basic scientific research. The aim of this study was to obtain diagnostically valuable mAbs with broad strain specificity against H5-subtype AIVs.
We applied the hybridoma method to produce anti-HA mAbs. The cloning and screening procedures resulted in the selection of 7 mouse hybridoma cell lines and their respective antibody clones. Preliminary immunoreactivity studies showed that these newly established mAbs, all of the IgG1 isotype, had high specificity and broad-range activities against the H5 HAs. However, these studies did not allow for a clear distinction among the selected antibodies and mAb-secreting hybridoma clones. To differentiate the analyzed mAbs and determine the exact number of hybridoma clones, peptide mapping of the Fc and Fab fragments was performed using a Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time of Flight (MALDI-TOF/TOF) mass spectrometer. Detailed analyses of the acquired MS and MS/MS spectra confirmed that the Fc fragments constituted highly conserved species- and isotype-immunoglobulin components, whereas the Fab fragments exhibited considerable variation in the sequences that determine antibody specificity. This approach enabled unambiguous characterization of the selected mAbs according to their peptide composition. As a result, 6 different clones were distinguished.
Our work provided a unique panel of anti-H5 HA mAbs, which meets the demand for novel, high-specificity analytical tools for use in serologic surveillance. Applications of these mAbs in areas other than diagnostics are also possible. Moreover, we demonstrated for the first time that peptide mapping of antibody fragments with mass spectrometry is an efficient method for the differentiation of antibody clones and relevant antibody-producing cell lines. The method may be successfully used to characterize mAbs at the protein level.