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Nat Protoc. 2014 Feb;9(2):375-95. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2014.017. Epub 2014 Jan 23.

Generation and purification of highly specific antibodies for detecting post-translationally modified proteins in vivo.

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Department of Genetics, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA.
Department of Genetics, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.


Post-translational modifications alter protein structure, affecting activity, stability, localization and/or binding partners. Antibodies that specifically recognize post-translationally modified proteins have a number of uses including immunocytochemistry and immunoprecipitation of the modified protein to purify protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid complexes. However, antibodies directed at modified sites on individual proteins are often nonspecific. Here we describe a protocol to purify polyclonal antibodies that specifically detect the modified protein of interest. The approach uses iterative rounds of subtraction and affinity purification, using stringent washes to remove antibodies that recognize the unmodified protein and low sequence complexity epitopes containing the modified amino acid. Dot blot and western blot assays are used to assess antibody preparation specificity. The approach is designed to overcome the common occurrence that a single round of subtraction and affinity purification is not sufficient to obtain a modified protein-specific antibody preparation. One full round of antibody purification and specificity testing takes 6 d of discontinuous time.

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