Unexpected anti-alpha GalNAc antibodies in alpha-galactosyl transferase-deficient mice: complex relationship between genotype and the natural antibody repertoire

Immunobiology. 2001 May;203(4):650-8. doi: 10.1016/s0171-2985(01)80014-0.


Mice lacking the alpha-galactosyl transferase gene (GalT(-/-) mice) have been used extensively as a model for xenotransplantation. Unlike wild type (WT) mice, GalT(-/-) mice do not produce Gal alpha 1-3Gal and are known to produce natural IgM specific for Gal alpha 1-3Gal, as do humans and higher primates. In addition to natural anti-Gal alpha 1-3Gal IgM in GalT(-/-) mice, we identified natural IgM which bound alpha-N-acetylgalactosamine (alpha GalNAc) but not Gal alpha 1-3Gal or blood group A. Although unexpected, these antibodies were expressed at 10-fold greater concentrations in GalT(-/-) mice than in WT mice. One explanation for this unexpected observation is that the production of natural antibodies is affected by self-antigen(s) that are similar but not identical to targets recognized by the natural antibody. Thus, the natural humoral immune system may be unresponsive to "near-self" antigens even though the individual is not tolerant to those antigens. Another explanation for the unexpected results is that there may be unanticipated and uncharacterized differences between GalT(-/-) mice and WT mice. These studies underscore the need to extensively characterize phenotypes in KO mice and indicate that the relationship between genotype and the natural immune repertoire can be complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylgalactosamine / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation*
  • Galactosyltransferases / deficiency*
  • Galactosyltransferases / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunoglobulin Isotypes / biosynthesis
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Self Tolerance


  • Immunoglobulin Isotypes
  • Galactosyltransferases
  • Acetylgalactosamine