Why “broad” instead of “large” cross-immunoreactivity?

Why “broad” instead of “large” cross-immunoreactivity?

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From the articles I read, expressions like "broad cross-immunoreactivity" pops up a lot. So, I was wondering, why "broad" is used here instead of large? Is there a specific reason?

In this context, "broad" is a buzzword, a piece of scientific jargon. It's a callback to Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies[1], bNAbs. The basic idea with bNAbs is that they target parts of viral proteins that tend not to mutate or change very much between individual strains of some particular virus.


To clarify, I am not suggesting that an antibody with "broad cross-immunoreactivity" is the same thing as a bNAb. Immunoreactivity and neutralization are not the same thing (although there is some overlap).

1: Zwick, M. B., Labrijn, A. F., Wang, M., Spenlehauer, C., Saphire, E. O., Binley, J. M., et al. (2001). Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies Targeted to the Membrane-Proximal External Region of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Glycoprotein gp41. Journal of Virology, 75(22), 10892-10905.

Broad means wide as in a wide range. Normally, antibodies have one epitope they recognize, i.e., one specific target; they are said to have a narrow range of targets.

Some antibodies, however, recognize multiple targets, i.e. the number of targets they recognize is larger and their target range is widened. They are said to have a broad cross-immunoreactivity.

A 'large' cross-immunoreactivity, however, is ambiguous, as 'large' can also imply 'large reactivity', and then 'large' becomes synonymous to 'strong'. Wide is unambiguous as it always implies a large range.