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An Introduction to Epitope Mapping

Antibodies are protein molecules used routinely for therapeutic, diagnostic, and research purposes due to their exquisite ability to selectively recognize and bind a given antigen. The particular area of the antigen recognized by the antibody is called the epitope, and for proteinaceous antigens the epitope can be of complex nature. Epitope Mapping is an essential aspect in the discovery and development of diagnostic and therapeutic antibodies. Information about the binding epitope of an antibody can provide important mechanistic insights and indicate for what applications an antibody might be useful. Therefore, a variety of epitope mapping techniques have been developed to localize such regions. Although the real picture is even more complex, epitopes in protein antigens are broadly grouped into linear or discontinuous epitopes depending on the positioning of the epitope residues in the antigen sequence and the requirement of structure. Specialized methods for mapping of the two different classes of epitopes, using high-throughput or high-resolution methods, have been developed. While different in their detail, all of the experimental methods rely on assessing the binding of the antibody to the antigen or a set of antigen mimics. Early approaches utilizing sets of truncated proteins, small numbers of synthesized peptides, and structural analyses of antibody-antigen complexes have been significantly refined. Current state-of-the-art methods involve combinations of mutational scanning, protein display, and high-throughput screening in conjunction with bioinformatic analyses of large datasets.

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