Development, Screening, and Validation of Camelid-Derived Nanobodies for Neuroscience Research

Clara E. Gavira-O'Neill, Jie Xian Dong, James S. Trimmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nanobodies (nAbs) are recombinant antigen-binding variable domain fragments obtained from heavy-chain-only immunoglobulins. Among mammals, these are unique to camelids (camels, llamas, alpacas, etc.). Nanobodies are of great use in biomedical research due to their efficient folding and stability under a variety of conditions, as well as their small size. The latter characteristic is particularly important for nAbs used as immunolabeling reagents, since this can improve penetration of cell and tissue samples compared to conventional antibodies, and also reduce the gap distance between signal and target, thereby improving imaging resolution. In addition, their recombinant nature allows for unambiguous definition and permanent archiving in the form of DNA sequence, enhanced distribution in the form of sequences or plasmids, and easy and inexpensive production using well-established bacterial expression systems, such as the IPTG induction method described here. This article will review the basic workflow and process for developing, screening, and validating novel nAbs against neuronal target proteins. The protocols described make use of the most common nAb development method, wherein an immune repertoire from an immunized llama is screened via phage display technology. Selected nAbs can then be taken through validation assays for use as immunolabels or as intrabodies in neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e107
JournalCurrent Protocols in Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • immunocytochemistry
  • immunohistochemistry
  • intrabodies
  • nanobodies
  • phage display
  • recombinant antibodies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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