Oligonucleotide conjugated antibodies permit highly multiplexed immunofluorescence for future use in clinical histopathology

Nathan P. Mcmahon, Jocelyn A. Jones, Sunjong Kwon, Koei Chin, Michel A. Nederlof, Joe W. Gray, Summer L. Gibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Significance: Advanced genetic characterization has informed cancer heterogeneity and the challenge it poses to effective therapy; however, current methods lack spatial context, which is vital to successful cancer therapy. Conventional immunolabeling, commonplace in the clinic, can provide spatial context to protein expression. However, these techniques are spectrally limited, resulting in inadequate capacity to resolve the heterogenous cell subpopulations within a tumor. Aim: We developed and optimized oligonucleotide conjugated antibodies (Ab-oligo) to facilitate cyclic immunofluorescence (cyCIF), resulting in high-dimensional immunostaining. Approach: We employed a site-specific conjugation strategy to label antibodies with unique oligonucleotide sequences, which were hybridized in situ with their complementary oligonucleotide sequence tagged with a conventional fluorophore. Antibody concentration, imaging strand concentration, and configuration as well as signal removal strategies were optimized to generate maximal staining intensity using our Ab-oligo cyCIF strategy. Results: We successfully generated 14 Ab-oligo conjugates and validated their antigen specificity, which was maintained in single color staining studies. With the validated antibodies, we generated up to 14-color imaging data sets of human breast cancer tissues. Conclusions: Herein, we demonstrated the utility of Ab-oligo cyCIF as a platform for highly multiplexed imaging, its utility to measure tumor heterogeneity, and its potential for future use in clinical histopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number056004
JournalJournal of biomedical optics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • cancer heterogeneity
  • cyclic immunostaining
  • multiplexed immunostaining
  • oligonucleotide conjugated antibody

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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