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Eur J Immunol. 2000 Oct;30(10):2881-7.

Enhanced immunogenicity of aldehyde-bearing antigens: a possible link between innate and adaptive immunity.

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Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, GB.


Innate immunity directs the adaptive immune response by identifying antigens that are associated with infectious agents. Although some microbial antigens can be recognized by innate immune receptors, most cannot, and these require identification by some other means. The introduction of aldehydes into antigens by glycolaldehyde, which can be produced by activated neutrophils reacting with serine, or by the oxidation of an N-linked oligosaccharide with NaIO4, enhances by several orders of magnitude their immunogenicity in mice. The augmented immunogenicity requires the presence of an aldehyde on the antigen, and is not dependent on protein aggregation. An in vitro correlate of augmented immunogenicity is the enhanced presentation of glycolaldehyde-modified antigen to T cells by macrophages and bone marrow-derived dendritic cells. The potential clinical importance of this form of antigen modification is twofold: glycolaldehyde renders a model self antigen immunogenic, and it converts a relatively non-immunogenic malaria antigen, merozoite surface protein-1, into an effective immunogen. Thus, the tagging of antigens by the addition of aldehydes, which may be an innate immune mechanism to facilitate their recognition by the adaptive immune system, may have a role in the genesis of autoimmunity and the development of vaccines.

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