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Dev Comp Immunol. 2006;30(1-2):187-98.

Antibody repertoire development in camelids.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cellular & Molecular Immunology, Department of Molecular & Cellular Interactions, Vlaams Interuniversitair Instituut voor Biotechnologie, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Building E, Room 8.2, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussel, Belgium.


The humoral immune response of the Camelidae is unique as these animals are the only known mammals that seem to possess functional homodimeric heavy-chain antibodies besides the classical heteromeric antibodies composed of heavy (H) and light (L) chains. By definition, the heavy-chain antibodies lack the L-chain, and it was noticed that their H-chain is devoid of the typical first constant domain (CH1) and contains a dedicated variable domain, referred to as VHH. The VHH exon is assembled from separate V-D-J gene segments. The recombined VHH region is subjected to somatic hypermutations; however, the timing and actual mechanism of the class switch from mu to the dedicated gamma-isotype remains elusive. Interestingly, antigen-specific VHHs are easily retrieved after panning of a phage-displayed rearranged V-gene pool cloned from an immunised camelid. These single-domain antigen binding entities possess a number of biophysical properties that offer particular advantages in various medical and biotechnological applications.

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