The adaptive immune system has the capacity to produce antibodies with enormous numbers of binding specificities. Antibodies are generated through recombination of a fixed set of germline immunoglobulin segments, called V genes, with other germline immunoglobulin segments. The exact composition of germline V gene sequences in an individual has been difficult to determine due to the highly repetitive nature of the genomic sequences encoding these segments, thus limiting our understanding of humoral immune responses.
To find a solution to this, Marcel Martin at Bioinformatics Long-term Support (WABI) at SciLifeLab, in collaboration with the group of Gunilla Karlsson Hedestam at Karolinska Institutet, has developed a practical, computational technique, IgDiscover, that enables rapid production of individualized V gene databases following deep sequencing of expressed antibody repertoires. IgDiscover uncovers genetic diversity in the immunoglobulin loci at the individual level, enabling an improved understanding of protective and pathogenic B cell responses in a variety of settings and facilitating future personalized immunization strategies.