Modification of antibody class and binding properties typically requires cloning of antibody genes, antibody library construction, phage or yeast display and recombinant antibody expression. Here, we describe an alternative "cloning-free" approach to generate antibodies with altered antigen-binding and heavy chain isotype by mimicking the germinal center reaction in antibody-secreting hybridoma cells. This was accomplished by lentiviral transduction and controllable expression of activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) to generate somatic hypermutation and class switch recombination in antibody genes coupled with high-throughput fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) of hybridoma cells to detect altered antibody binding properties. Starting from a single established hybridoma clone, we isolated mutated antibodies that bind to a low-temperature structure of polyethylene glycol (PEG), a polymer widely used in nanotechnology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. FACS of AID-infected hybridoma cells also facilitated rapid identification of class switched variants of monoclonal IgM to monoclonal IgG. Mimicking the germinal center reaction in hybridoma cells may offer a general method to identify and isolate antibodies with altered binding properties and class-switched heavy chains without the need to carry out DNA library construction, antibody engineering and recombinant protein expression.
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