The ELISA, or enzyme linked immunosorbent assay, is the gold standard immunoassay for detection of small quantities of protein in samples as varied as serum, urine, saliva, and more. The ELISA is a labeled assay, which means that some type of label is needed to detect protein binding events. These labels are typically fluorescent, chromatic, or chemiluminiscent, and require the use of a plate reader to quantify the amount of protein in the sample. The major benefit of the ELISA is that low concentrations (often down to pg/mL) of protein are easily quantified. One disadvantage to ELISA is that many steps and reagents are required throughout the protocol. However, this can be mitigated by purchasing an ELISA kit that is pre-bound with capture antibodies and contains a detailed protocol for using all of the included buffers in a clear, easy to follow format. The use of an ELISA kit can improve diagnostic results from assay to assay because the kits are all validated between lots and come with protein standards. This means that a standard curve (detected signal vs. protein concentration) is generated during each assay and this standard curve can be checked against the expected values to ensure that the kit is still functioning as expected. The kit streamlines the process and takes the guesswork out of protocol design.
Antibodies are produced by the adaptive immune system in response to invading pathogens. The antibody has specific lock and key recognition for the offending bacteria, virus, or other molecule, which are collectively called antigens. Antibodies are proteins, which are folded polypeptides, or strands of amino acids which have antigen recognition sites that specifically recognize a binding site of its specific antigen. They are produced by B-cells of the adaptive immune system.
Proteins are fundamental building blocks for life. All tissues and organisms are made up of protein, and all of the work performed inside and outside of cells is mediated by protein signaling cascades. Proteins are polymers of amino acids with three or four layers of organized structure. Primary structure is defined as the linear order of amino acids. This is dictated by the genome: the code is transcribed from DNA and translated into the string of amino acids. Secondary structure is thought of as two basic forms: a beta sheet or alpha helix. The string of amino acids adopts the conformation that allows the lowest energy state. Beyond the sheets and helices, the chain can take other twists and turns to fold into a shape known as its tertiary structure. Some proteins are actually made up of two or more subunits of individually folded amino acids strands. The complexing of protein subunits to form one functional protein is called quaternary structure. All of this folding is extremely important to the character and function of each individual protein because it results in certain side chains of amino acids being located on the exterior or interior of the protein. Importantly, the folds create binding pockets where key amino acids are located to create a unique chemical landscape that allows the protein to bind to other proteins and carry out its job in a signaling cascade.
Protein purification services are available for anyone who is in need of a custom antibody or recombinant protein for research and development purposes. If your laboratory is not equipped to produce recombinant proteins in house, then this may be an attractive option. These services require you to provide a sequence and preferred expression system; in turn they will deliver a quality controlled protein with accompanying documentation to you within just a few weeks.
The ELISA or Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay is the most established method of protein detection and quantification. The technique is commonly used in a wide variety of applications spanning from the basic research bench to clinical laboratories. The ELISA is a labeled assay, which means that it requires the use of a label to detect an antibody-antigen binding event. The label is commonly a fluorescent probe, chemiluminescent system, or enzymatic colorimetric reaction.
If you look closely at the product information for many commercial antibodies, you will see that they are protein A purified. Protein A is a surface protein that was originally found in the cell wall of staphyloccoccus aureus bacteria. On the surface of bacteria it serves as a defense against the host immune system and allows the bacteria to survive longer and be more virulent. Protein A binds the Fc portion of IgG antibodies.
Until this point we have been thinking about antibodies as one of the five classes, IgG, IgE, IgD, IgA, or IgM. The basic unit of each antibody class is a Y structure, where the base of the Y is known as the Fc region and the arms are the Fab region. The entire IgG antibody is composed of four polypeptide chains (two heavy and two light). The Fc region is composed only of heavy chain, and the variable Fab region is built with heavy chain and light chain. The Fab region is where all of the antigen-binding occurs because the paratope, or antigen recognition site is located at the tip of each of the two arms of the Y. A single domain antibody paratope is made solely of a single heavy chain.
Proteins are constantly being created by the cellular machinery of living organisms. This article will first summarize the process as it occurs in a natural organism, and then discuss how protein expression and purification occurs in a laboratory setting for the generation of recombinant proteins.