UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


Anti-Gal: An abundant human natural antibody of multiple pathogeneses and clinical benefits

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Departments of Surgery

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Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins | Immunology and Infectious Disease | Immunopathology | Medical Immunology | Surgery


Anti-Gal is the most abundant natural antibody in humans constituting ~1% of immunoglobulins. Anti-Gal is naturally produced also in apes and Old World monkeys. The ligand of anti-Gal is a carbohydrate antigen called the "alpha-gal epitope" with the structure Galalpha1-3Galbeta1-4GlcNAc-R. The alpha-gal epitope is present as a major carbohydrate antigen in nonprimate mammals, prosimians and New World monkeys. Anti-Gal can contribute to several immunological pathogeneses. Anti-Gal IgE produced in some individuals causes allergies to meat and to the therapeutic monoclonal antibody cetuximab, all presenting alpha-gal epitopes. Aberrant expression of the alpha-gal epitope or of antigens mimicking it in humans may result in autoimmune processes, as in Graves' Disease. alpha-Gal epitopes produced by Trypanosoma cruzi interact with anti-Gal and induce "autoimmune like" inflammatory reactions in Chagas Disease. Anti-Gal IgM and IgG further mediate rejection of xenografts expressing alpha-gal epitopes. Because of its abundance, anti-Gal may be exploited for various clinical uses. It increases immunogenicity of microbial vaccines (e.g., flu vaccine) presenting alpha-gal epitopes by targeting them for effective uptake by APC. Tumor lesions are converted into vaccines against autologous tumor associated antigens by intratumoral injection of alpha-gal glycolipids which insert into tumor cell membranes. Anti-Gal binding to alpha-gal epitopes on tumor cells targets them for uptake by APC. Accelerated wound healing is achieved by application of alpha-gal nanoparticles which bind anti-Gal, activate complement, recruit and activate macrophages that induce tissue regeneration. This therapy may be of further significance in regeneration of internally injured tissues such as ischemic myocardium and injured nerves. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

DOI of Published Version



Immunology. 2013 Apr 12. doi: 10.1111/imm.12110. Link to article on publisher's site

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