Broadly neutralizing antibodies developed from the IGHV1-69 germline gene are known to bind to the stem region of hemagglutinin in diverse influenza viruses but the sequence determinants for the antigen recognition, including neutralization potency and binding affinity, are not clearly understood. Such understanding could inform designs of synthetic antibody libraries targeting the stem epitope on hemagglutinin, leading to artificially designed antibodies that are functionally advantageous over antibodies from natural antibody repertoires. In this work, the sequence space of the complementarity determining regions of a broadly neutralizing antibody (F10) targeting the stem epitope on the hemagglutinin of a strain of H1N1 influenza virus was systematically explored; the elucidated antibody-hemagglutinin recognition principles were used to design a phage-displayed antibody library, which was then used to discover neutralizing antibodies against another strain of H1N1 virus. More than 1000 functional antibody candidates were selected from the antibody library and were shown to neutralize the corresponding strain of influenza virus with up to 7 folds higher potency comparing with the parent F10 antibody. The antibody library could be used to discover functionally effective antibodies against other H1N1 influenza viruses, supporting the notion that target-specific antibody libraries can be designed and constructed with systematic sequence-function information.
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