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Independent variable domains with VH hallmarks have been repeatedly identified in immune and pre-immune VHH libraries. In some cases, stable independent VH domains have been also isolated in mouse and human recombinant antibody repertoires. However, we have come to realize that VHs were selected with a higher efficiency than VHHs during biopanning of a pre-immune (VHH) library. The biochemical and biophysical comparison did not indicate a presence of any feature that would favor the VH binders during the selection process. In contrast, selected VHHs seemed to be more stable than the VHs, ruling out the existence of a thermodynamically - favored VH sub-class. Therefore, we reasoned that a certain degree of thermodynamic instability may be beneficial for both displaying and expression of VH(H)s when the Sec-pathway is used for their secretion to avoid the cytoplasmic trapping of fast-folding polypeptides. Indeed, VHHs, but not VHs, were accumulated at higher concentrations when expressed fused to the dsbA leader peptide, a sequence that drives the linked polypeptides to the co-translational SRP secretion machinery. These data suggest that the thermodynamically favored VHHs can be lost during biopanning, as previously observed for DARPins and in contrast to the recombinant antibodies in scFv format.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Comp Immunol

Publication Date





150 - 156


Animals, Camelids, New World, Genomic Library, Humans, Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains, Mice, Protein Binding, Protein Engineering, Protein Stability, Secretory Pathway, Single-Chain Antibodies, Thermodynamics