VHH antibodies: emerging reagents for the analysis of environmental chemicals

Candace S. Bever, Jie Xian Dong, Natalia Vasylieva, Bogdan Barnych, Yongliang Cui, Zhen Lin Xu, Bruce D. Hammock, Shirley J. Gee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


A VHH antibody (or nanobody) is the antigen binding fragment of heavy chain only antibodies. Discovered nearly 25 years ago, they have been investigated for their use in clinical therapeutics and immunodiagnostics, and more recently for environmental monitoring applications. A new and valuable immunoreagent for the analysis of small molecular weight environmental chemicals, VHH will overcome many pitfalls encountered with conventional reagents. In the work so far, VHH antibodies often perform comparably to conventional antibodies for small molecule analysis, are amenable to numerous genetic engineering techniques, and show ease of adaption to other immunodiagnostic platforms for use in environmental monitoring. Recent reviews cover the structure and production of VHH antibodies as well as their use in clinical settings. However, no report focuses on the use of these VHH antibodies to detect small environmental chemicals (MW < 1500 Da). This review article summarizes the efforts made to produce VHHs to various environmental targets, compares the VHH-based assays with conventional antibody assays, and discusses the advantages and limitations in developing these new antibody reagents particularly to small molecule targets. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5985-6002
Number of pages18
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number22
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Biosensors
  • Environmental chemicals
  • Genetic modifications
  • Production
  • Sensitivity
  • VHH antibodies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Medicine(all)


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