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J Immunol Methods. 2004 Mar;286(1-2):47-67.

Detection of antibodies to squalene: III. Naturally occurring antibodies to squalene in humans and mice.

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  • 1Department of Membrane Biochemistry, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, 503 Robert Grant Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910-7500, USA. gary.matyas@na.amedd.army.mil


An ELISA-based assay is described for the measurement of antibodies to squalene (SQE) in human serum and plasma. The assay was adapted from the previously described assay for murine antibodies to SQE (J. Immunol. Methods 267 (2002) 119). Like the murine SQE antibody assay, the human antibody assay used sterile cell culture 96-well plates coated with SQE (20 nmol/well). Phosphate-buffered saline (PBS)-0.5% casein was used as both a blocking agent and dilution buffer. The assay has a high through-put capacity and is reproducible and quantitative. This assay was used to evaluate samples from three different human cohorts. The first cohort was retired employees of the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID alumni). The mean age was 68 (N=40; range 58-82). Most were vaccinated with the U.S. licensed anthrax vaccine (AVA) and most had received several other vaccines through a USAMRIID special immunization program. The second cohort was of similar age (N=372; mean age 67; range 54-97) from the normal population of Frederick, MD and were not vaccinated with AVA. The third cohort (N=299) was from Camp Memorial Blood Center, United States Army Medical Department Activities, Fort Knox, KY. (No additional volunteer information is available.) Using this new ELISA method, antibodies to SQE were detected in all three of the cohorts. IgG antibodies to SQE were detected in 7.5% and 15.1% of the samples from the USAMRIID alumni and Frederick cohorts, respectively. These differences were not significantly different (chi((1))(2)=1.69, p=0.19). In contrast, no IgG antibodies to SQE were detected in the Fort Knox cohort which is significantly different than the Frederick cohort (chi((1))(2)=49.25, p<0.0001). IgM antibodies to SQE were detected in 37.5% and 32.3% of the samples from the USAMRIID and Frederick cohorts, respectively, but there was no significant difference between the cohorts. In the Fort Knox cohort, 19.4% of the samples were positive for IgM antibodies to SQE, which was significantly different from the Frederick cohort (chi((1))(2)=14.23, p=0.0002). Although the age of the volunteers from the Fort Knox cohort is unknown, the demographic of the donors at the blood bank volunteers is 85% 17-21 years of age. This suggested that the prevalence of antibodies to SQE may increase with age. This was confirmed with mouse studies in which the presence of antibodies was monitored as a function of time. No antibodies to SQE were detected in female BALB/c, B10.Br and C57BL/6 mice at 2 months of age, but they reached a maximum prevalence with 100% and 89% of animals testing positive for IgG and IgM antibodies to SQE, respectively, in the C57Bl/6 mice at 18 months of age. BALB/c and B10.Br mice also developed antibodies to SQE over time, but were at a lower prevalence than those observed in the C57BL/6 mice. Thirty-five of the 40 volunteers in the USAMRIID were vaccinated with AVA (mean no. doses=26; range 3-47). Comparison of the prevalence of antibodies to SQE from the AVA immunized group with the Frederick cohort revealed that there was no statistical differences for IgG (chi((1))(2)=2.3, p=0.13) or IgM (chi((1))(2)=0.33, p=0.56). When the data from the USAMRIID and Frederick cohorts were combined and analyzed for the presence of antibodies to SQE with respect to the sex of the volunteer, females (40.8%) were found to have a higher prevalence of IgM antibodies to SQE than men (28.4%) (chi((1))(2)=6.59, p=0.01). No significant difference was observed in the prevalence for IgG antibodies to SQE in females (17.7%) and males (12.5%). We conclude that antibodies to SQE occur naturally in humans; have an increased prevalence in females; are not correlated with vaccination with AVA; and appear to increase in prevalence with age.

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