I am new to biology. I searched a lot to find an article that explains what "pan-specific" antibody is but I could not find anything substantial that would help me understand what it is.

An example from an article

In this report, we address this long-standing analytical deficiency by developing a pan-specific antibody against the pHis modification. We show that this antibody can be used to detect protein histidine phosphorylation in vitro and in vivo.

Another definition

I appreciate if someone helps me with finding a scientific explanation (article/ book) on what "pan-specific" antibodies are.

Kind Regards,


What does pan-specific antibody mean?

The combining prefix pan- means "all" or "every".

Antibodies are specific because they bind specifically to an epitope ('target') on a molecule. A pan-specific antibody is one that binds specifically to all desired targets, within a defined range.

Here are three correct examples of how the word could be used, to help you understand. Only the first two are relevant for your particular case:

  1. In your case, there is an antibody for the phosphoprotein, the unphosphorylated protein, and both. The antibody that targets both is pan-specific because it binds both ("all", or "every") forms of the protein.

  2. Another possible use for pan-specific is that some antibodies bind to some members of a protein family, but not all, so they are not comprehensive enough. Other time, antibodies bind to all members of a protein family, but bind additional targets, so they are not specific enough. Pan-specific is a great way to describe an antibody (monoclonal) or set of antibodies (polyclonal) that are both specific and comprehensive enough to adsorb an antigen of choice.

  3. An antibody that binds specifically to a protein called pan.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot. Can you please share a link to a website or an article that I can find this sort of explanation there? It's a bit weird that I can't find an explanation about these concepts on a website! I think I'm using the wrong keywords! $\endgroup$ – Tooba Apr 8 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ It's a Greek prefix and it's commonly used. You won't get a technical definition of it, it's just jargon that you pick up over the years studying science. This goes for other Latin and Greek prefixes, like -epi or -con or -inter or -intra. Now that you know that science takes loanwords from Latin and Greek, I'm sure you'll be better prepared for novel words. For instance, you may be able to tell the difference between epidemic and a pandemic, and that pandemics are much worse. $\endgroup$ – S Pr Apr 9 at 11:02

In the paper quoted in the question the term clearly related to phosphoamino acids, but did not have the meaning suggested in answer 1 of @S_Pr. The paper was from Nat Chem Biol. and entitled:

“A Pan-specific Antibody for Direct Detection of Protein Histidine Phosphorylation”

The idea is that the antibody is:

‘pan’ in that it will react with all phospho-histidine residues on proteins, but

‘specific’ in that it will not react with unphosphorylated histidine residues or other phospho-aminoacids e.g. phospho-serine.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, David. I liked to vote up your answer as it was helpful as well. But, as I'm a new member I can't vote up with reputation less than 15. However, thanks. $\endgroup$ – Tooba Apr 8 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Tooba — No problem. It’s not a big deal and I have plenty of points. $\endgroup$ – David Apr 9 at 6:55

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