Access to ultra-long IgG CDRH3 bovine antibody sequences using short read sequencing technology

The advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing and recombinant antibody technologies has presented new methods for characterizing antibody repertoires and significantly increased our understanding on the functional role of antibodies in immunity and their use in diagnostics, vaccine antigen design and as biological therapeutics. A subset of Bos taurus antibodies possesses unique ultra-long third complementary-determining region of the heavy chain (CDRH3) and are of special interest because they are thought to have unique functional abilities of broadly neutralizing properties – a functional role that has not been fully explored in vaccine development. Next generation sequencing technologies that are widely used to profile immunoglobulin (Ig) repertoires are based on short-read methods such as the Illumina technology. Although this technology has worked well in sequencing Ig V-D-J regions of most jawed vertebrates, it has faced serious technical challenges with sequencing regions in bovine Ig bearing ultra-long CDRH3 sequences, which are longer than 120 bp. To overcome this limitation, we have developed a sequencing strategy based on nested PCR products that allows sequence assembly of full-length bovine Ig heavy-chain (IgH) V-D-J regions. We have used this strategy to sequence IgH V-D-J regions of two Bos indicus breeds, Ankole and Boran. We confirm the presence of ultra-long CDRH3 sequences in IgG transcripts in both African cattle breeds, and provide preliminary evidence for differences and preferences in germline VH, DH and JH allele gene usage as well as differences in the length of the VH region in the two bovine breeds. Our method provides tools that should allow more robust analyses of ultra-long CDRH3 sequences aiding antibody and epitope discovery in different cattle breeds and their role in mediating immunity.