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Mol Med. 2000 Apr;6(4):332-41.

Transfer factors: identification of conserved sequences in transfer factor molecules.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, USA.



Transfer factors are small proteins that "transfer" the ability to express cell-mediated immunity from immune donors to non-immune recipients. We developed a process for purifying specific transfer factors to apparent homogeneity. This allowed us to separate individual transfer factors from mixtures containing several transfer factors and to demonstrate the antigen-specificity of transfer factors. Transfer factors have been shown to be an effective means for correction of deficient cellular immunity in patients with opportunistic infections, such as candidiasis or recurrent Herpes simplex and to provide prophylactic immunity against varicella-zoster in patients with acute leukemia.


Transfer factors of bovine and murine origin were purified by affinity chromatography and high performance liquid chromatography. Cyanogen bromide digests were sequenced. The properties of an apparently conserved sequence on expression of delayed-type hypersensitivity by transfer factor recipients were assessed.


A novel amino acid sequence, LLYAQDL/VEDN, was identified in each of seven transfer factor preparations. These peptides would not transfer expression of delayed-type hypersensitivity to recipients, which indicates that they are not sufficient for expression of the specificity or immunological properties of native transfer factors. However, administration of the peptides to recipients of native transfer factors blocked expression of delayed-type hypersensitivity by the recipients. The peptides were not immunosuppressive.


These findings suggest that the peptides may represent the portion of transfer factors that binds to the "target cells" for transfer factors. Identification of these cells will be helpful in defining the mechanisms of action of transfer factors.

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