Evidence that Immunosuppression is an Intrinsic Property of the Alpha-Fetoprotein Molecule
Among the proteins that comprise the albumin family, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is the only member which exhibits immunoregulatory properties. However, some investigations have argued that AFP-mediated immunosuppression is not an inherent property of the molecule itself, but is instead, hypothesized to be either a function of a low molecular weight inhibitor bound to AFP or to a post-translational modification of the protein. AFP cannot be isolated from natural sources in quantities sufficient for the detailed biochemical and functional analyses required to resolve these issues. We have therefore produced recombinant forms of the protein (rAFP) by cloning the cDNA’s for mouse and human AFP in both eukaryotic and prokaryotic expression systems. As described in this report, we were able to abundantly express rAFP’s in bacterial, baculovirus and yeast expression systems. Recombinant proteins derived from each expression system were recognized by polyclonal and monoclonal anti-AFP antibodies as determined by immunoblot analysis. Pure recombinant protein samples, as characterized by polyacrylamide gel analyses, N-terminal sequencing and FPLC and HPLC chromatography, were evaluated for their immunoregulatory properties in murine and human in vitro immunological assays. The results of these studies establish that rAFP is functionally equivalent to natural fetal derived AFP molecules. Importantly, the data reported here demonstrate that AFP-mediated immunoregulation is an activity intrinsic to the molecule itself and cannot be attributed to either putative non-covalently bound moieties or to post-translational modifications such as glycosylation and sialylation. These studies provide a basis for initiating detailed investigations into the potential clinical usefulness of AFP as an immunotherapeutic agent.
KeywordsHuman Serum Albumin Sialic Acid Recombinant Baculovirus Yeast Expression System Prokaryotic Expression System
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