ResearchPublished 1 December 2021
How does antibody diversity shape our body’s response to infectious disease?
Our immune system produces antibodies - specialised Y-shaped proteins - to fight against disease-causing pathogens like viruses and bacteria. However, there is a large diversity in the antibody response between different people, meaning some people respond ineffectively to a vaccine or pathogen, and remain susceptible to that disease. The underlying reasons for this variation in immune response is poorly understood.
Antibody molecules have evolved with two distinct regions, one for pathogen binding called the variable region, and the other called the constant region (See Figure 1). Once an antibody locks onto a pathogen binding site at variable region, the constant region is responsible for the recruitment of other immune system components to combat infection. Despite the naming convention, the so-called constant region has over 250 recently identified protein sequence variants across the human population, and the functional consequences of these differences are largely unknown. With support from a Marsden Fast Start grant, Dr William Kelton, and PhD student Annmaree Warrender at the University of Waikato alongside international collaborators Professor Sai Reddy (ETH Zürich) and Professor Jan Terje Andersen (University Hospital Oslo) are investigating how this diversity in the antibody constant region might impact our immune response to viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19.
Dr William Kelton
University of Waikato
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