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The administration of recombinant methionyl bovine somatotropin (rMbST) to dairy cows to increase milk yield remains a common practice in many countries including the USA, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Korea, whereas it has been forbidden within the European Union (EU) since 1999. A rapid screening immunoanalytical method capable of the unequivocal determination of rMbST in milk would be highly desirable in order to effectively monitor compliance with the EU-wide ban for home-made or imported dairy products. For decades, the production of specific antibodies for this recombinant isoform of bovine somatotropin (bST) has remained elusive, due to the high degree of sequence homology between both counterparts (e.g. methionine for rMbST in substitution of alanine in bST at the N-terminus). In this study, we compared several immunizing strategies for the production of specific polyclonal antibodies (pAbs), based on the use of the full-length recombinant protein, an rMbST N-terminus peptide fragment and a multiple antigen peptide (MAP) which consists of an oligomeric branching lysine core attached to the first two N-terminus amino acids of rMbST, methionine and phenylalanine (MF-MAP). The immunization with KLH-conjugated MF-MAP led to the production of the pAb with the highest rMbST/bST recognition ratio amongst the generated battery of antibodies. The pAb exhibited a specific binding ability to rMbST in a competitive antigen-coated ELISA format, which avidity was further improved after purification by rMbST N-terminus peptide-based affinity chromatography. These results suggest that immunodiscrimination between structurally related proteins can be achieved using immuno-enhanced immunogens such as MAPs.
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