Antibody profiling identifies novel antigenic targets in spinal cord injury patients

Ilse Palmers, Elke Ydens, Eric Put, Bart Depreitere, Helma Bongers-Janssen, Peter Pickkers, Sven Hendrix, Veerle Somers*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Recent evidence implicates antibody responses as pivotal damaging factors in spinal cord injury (SCI)-induced neuroinflammation. To date, only a limited number of the antibody targets have been uncovered, and the discovery of novel targets with pathologic and clinical relevance still represents a major challenge.In this study, we, therefore, applied an unbiased, innovative and powerful strategy, called serological antigen selection (SAS), to fully identify the complex information present within the antibody repertoire of SCI patients.We constructed a high-quality cDNA phage display library derived from human spinal cord tissue to screen for antibody reactivity in pooled plasma samples from traumatic SCI patients (n?=?10, identification cohort). By performing SAS, we identified a panel of 19 antigenic targets to which the individual samples of the plasma pool showed antibody reactivity. Sequence analysis to identify the selected antigenic targets uncovered 5 known proteins, to which antibody reactivity has not been associated with SCI before, as well as linear peptides. Immunoreactivity against 9 of the 19 novel identified targets was validated in 41 additional SCI patients and an equal number of age- and gender-matched healthy subjects. Overall, we found elevated antibody levels to at least 1 of the 9 targets in 51?% of our total SCI patient cohort (n?=?51) with a specificity of 73?%. By combining 6 of these 9 targets into a panel, an overall reactivity of approximately half of the SCI patients could be maintained while increasing the specificity to 82?%.In conclusion, our innovative high-throughput approach resulted in the identification of previously unexplored antigenic targets with elevated immunoreactivity in more than 50?% of the SCI patients. Characterization of the validated antibody responses and their targets will not only provide new insight into the underlying disease processes of SCI pathology but also significantly contribute to uncovering potential antibody biomarkers for SCI patients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number243
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2016


  • Antigenic targets
  • Antibody repertoire
  • Serological antigen selection
  • cDNA phage display library
  • Spinal cord injury

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