In vitro display methods are superior tools for obtaining monoclonal antibodies. Although totally in vitro display methods, such as ribosome display and mRNA display, have the advantages of larger library sizes and quicker selection procedures compared with phage display, their applications have been limited to single-chain Fvs due to the requirement for linking of the mRNA and the nascent protein on the ribosome. Here we describe a different type of totally in vitro method, DNA display, that is applicable to heterodimeric Fab fragments: in vitro compartmentalization in water-in-oil emulsions allows the linking of an oligomeric protein and its encoding DNA with multiple ORFs. Since previously used emulsions impaired the synthesis of functional Fab fragments, we modified conditions for preparing emulsions, and identified conditions under which it was possible to enrich Fab fragments 106-fold per three rounds of affinity selection. Furthermore, we confirmed that genes encoding stable Fab fragments could be selected from a Fab fragment library with a randomized hydrophobic core in the constant region by applying heat treatment as a selection pressure. Since this method has all advantages of both phage display and totally in vitro display, it represents a new option for many applications using display methods.
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