Recent developments of high-throughput technologies are enabling the molecular-level analysis and bioinformatic mining of antibody-mediated (humoral) immunity in humans at an unprecedented level. These approaches explore either the sequence space of B-cell receptor repertoires using next-generation deep sequencing (BCR-seq), or the amino acid identities of antibody in blood using protein mass spectrometry (Ig-seq), or both. Generalizable principles about the molecular composition of the protective humoral immune response are being defined, and as such, the field could supersede traditional methods for the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and antibody therapeutics. Three key challenges remain and have driven recent advances: (1) incorporation of innovative techniques for paired BCR-seq to ascertain the complete antibody variable-domain VH:VL clonotype, (2) integration of proteomic Ig-seq with BCR-seq to reveal how the serum antibody repertoire compares with the antibody repertoire encoded by circulating B cells, and (3) a demand to link antibody sequence data to functional meaning (binding and protection).
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