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All About Producing Polyclonal Antibodies

Antibodies used for research and diagnostic purposes are often obtained by injecting a lab animal such as a rabbit or a goat with a specific antigen. Within a few weeks, the animal’s immune system will produce high levels of antibodies specific for the antigen.

These antibodies can be collected in antiserum, i.e. whole serum taken from animals after exposure to the antigen. Since most antigens are complex structures with multiple epitopes, they lead to the production of multiple antibodies in test animals. You can also check out Boster Bio featured products to know more about antibodies production.

This so-called polyclonal antibody response is also typical of the infection response of the human immune system. Thus, antiserum of animal origin contains antibodies from many clones of B cells, each B cell responding to an antigen-specific epitope.

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Laboratory animals are usually injected with the antigen at least twice when it is used to make antiserum. The second injection activates memory cells that produce IgG antibodies against the antigen. Memory cells also undergo affinity maturation, producing a group of antibodies with a higher average affinity.

Affinity maturation is caused by mutations in variable regions of the immunoglobulin gene, resulting in B cells with slightly altered antigen-binding sites.

Upon exposure to a new antigen, B cells that can produce antibodies with higher affinity antigen binding sites are stimulated to reproduce and produce more antibodies than their lower affinity counterparts.

Adjuvants, which are chemicals that cause a general activation of the immune system that stimulates increased antibody production, are often mixed with an antigen before being injected.