Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient Antibody Molecule Offers Clues To How Humans Evolved Allergies

Date:
June 14, 2008
Source:
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Summary:
Scientists have discovered how evolution may have lumbered humans with allergy problems. The team are working on a molecule vital to a chicken's immune system which represents the evolutionary ancestor of the human antibodies that cause allergic reactions. Crucially, they have discovered that the chicken molecule behaves quite differently from its human counterpart, which throws light on the origin and cause of allergic reactions in humans and gives hope for new strategies for treatment.

Scientists funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have discovered how evolution may have lumbered humans with allergy problems. The team from the Randall Division of Cell & Molecular Biophysics, King's College London are working on a molecule vital to a chicken's immune system which represents the evolutionary ancestor of the human antibodies that cause allergic reactions.

Crucially, they have discovered that the chicken molecule behaves quite differently from its human counterpart, which throws light on the origin and cause of allergic reactions in humans and gives hope for new strategies for treatment.

Researcher, Dr Alex Taylor said: "This molecule is like a living fossil -- finding out that it has an ancient past is like turning up a coelacanth in your garden pond. By studying this molecule, we can track the evolution of allergic reactions back to at least 160 million years ago and by looking at the differences between the ancient and the modern antibodies we can begin to understand how to design better drugs to stop allergic reactions in their tracks."

The chicken molecule, an antibody called IgY, looks remarkably similar to the human antibody IgE. IgE is known to be involved in allergic reactions and humans also have a counterpart antibody called IgG that helps to destroy invading viruses and bacteria. Scientists know that both IgE and IgG were present in mammals around 160 million years ago because the corresponding genes are found in the recently published platypus genome. However, in chickens there is no equivalent to IgG and so IgY performs both functions.

Lead researcher, Dr. Rosy Calvert said: "Although these antibodies all started from a common ancestor, for some reason humans have ended up with two rather specialised antibodies, whereas chickens only have one that has a much more general function.

"We know that part of the problem with IgE in humans is that it binds extremely tightly to white blood cells causing an over-reaction of the immune system and so we wanted to find out whether IgY does the same thing."

By examining how tightly IgY binds to white blood cells the researchers have found that it behaves in a much more similar way to the human IgG, which is not involved in allergic reactions and binds much less tightly.

Professor Brian Sutton, head of the laboratory where the work was done said: "It might be that there was a nasty bug or parasite around at the time that meant that humans needed a really dramatic immune response and so there was pressure to evolve a tight binding antibody like IgE. The problem is that now we've ended up with an antibody that can tend to be a little over enthusiastic and causes us problems with apparently innocuous substances like pollen and peanuts, which can cause life-threatening allergic conditions."

The next stage of the work is to examine in very fine detail the interaction between the antibodies and the surface of the white blood cell. This is with a view to designing drugs that could alter this interaction and therefore 'loosen' the binding of IgE, making it more like its chicken counterpart.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Taylor et al. Avian IgY binds to a monocyte receptor with IgG-like kinetics despite an IgE-like structure. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 283: 16384-16390

Cite This Page:

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "Ancient Antibody Molecule Offers Clues To How Humans Evolved Allergies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080612193831.htm>.
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. (2008, June 14). Ancient Antibody Molecule Offers Clues To How Humans Evolved Allergies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080612193831.htm
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "Ancient Antibody Molecule Offers Clues To How Humans Evolved Allergies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080612193831.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins