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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e28869. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028869. Epub 2012 Jan 11.

Characterization of the rabbit neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) and analyzing the immunophenotype of the transgenic rabbits that overexpresses FcRn.

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Agricultural Biotechnology Center, Gödöllo, Hungary.


The neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn) regulates IgG and albumin homeostasis, mediates maternal IgG transport, takes an active role in phagocytosis, and delivers antigen for presentation. We have previously shown that overexpression of FcRn in transgenic mice significantly improves the humoral immune response. Because rabbits are an important source of polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies, adaptation of our FcRn overexpression technology in this species would bring significant advantages. We cloned the full length cDNA of the rabbit FcRn alpha-chain and found that it is similar to its orthologous analyzed so far. The rabbit FcRn - IgG contact residues are highly conserved, and based on this we predicted pH dependent interaction, which we confirmed by analyzing the pH dependent binding of FcRn to rabbit IgG using yolk sac lysates of rabbit fetuses by Western blot. Using immunohistochemistry, we detected strong FcRn staining in the endodermal cells of the rabbit yolk sac membrane, while the placental trophoblast cells and amnion showed no FcRn staining. Then, using BAC transgenesis we generated transgenic rabbits carrying and overexpressing a 110 kb rabbit genomic fragment encoding the FcRn. These transgenic rabbits--having one extra copy of the FcRn when hemizygous and two extra copies when homozygous--showed improved IgG protection and an augmented humoral immune response when immunized with a variety of different antigens. Our results in these transgenic rabbits demonstrate an increased immune response, similar to what we described in mice, indicating that FcRn overexpression brings significant advantages for the production of polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies.

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