Harnessing gene conversion in chicken B cells to create a human antibody sequence repertoire.

Transgenic chickens expressing human sequence antibodies would be a powerful tool to access human targets and epitopes that have been intractable in mammalian hosts because of tolerance to conserved proteins. To foster the development of the chicken platform, it is beneficial to validate transgene constructs using a rapid, cell culture-based method prior to generating fully transgenic birds. We describe a method for the expression of human immunoglobulin variable regions in the chicken DT40 B cell line and the further diversification of these genes by gene conversion. Chicken VL and VH loci were knocked out in DT40 cells and replaced with human VK and VH genes. To achieve gene conversion of human genes in chicken B cells, synthetic human pseudogene arrays were inserted upstream of the functional human VK and VH regions. Proper expression of chimeric IgM comprised of human variable regions and chicken constant regions is shown. Most importantly, sequencing of DT40 genetic variants confirmed that the human pseudogene arrays contributed to the generation of diversity through gene conversion at both the Igl and Igh loci. These data show that engineered pseudogene arrays produce a diverse pool of human antibody sequences in chicken B cells, and suggest that these constructs will express a functional repertoire of chimeric antibodies in transgenic chickens.

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