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Researchers Discover Antibody Receptor Identity, Propose Renaming Immune-System Gene

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have uncovered the genetic identity of a cellular receptor for the immune system's first-response antibody, a discovery that sheds new light on infection control and immune disorders. The discovery is such a crucial part of immunology that UAB researchers, in conjunction with Japanese researchers, are asking that the gene linked to this antibody receptor be renamed to better describe its role in early immune responses.

The proposed name is the Fc mu receptor (FCMR) gene; it describes a key region of the immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody that binds this receptor. IgM is by far the largest antibody in the circulatory system, and it is the first antibody on the scene in response to an invading pathogen, such as a virus or bacteria. The IgM-tagged pathogens then trigger various immune responses through this receptor FCMR. The new findings are reported online in the Journal of Experimental Medicine and in the publication's Nov. 23 print edition.

Previously, researchers who had identified this gene thought they were dealing with a molecule that regulated cell death and they named it "toso" -- a reference to the Japanese medicinal sake often drunk on New Year's Day to symbolize a long life. But the toso name is inaccurate, as were many of the earlier descriptions of this gene's function, says Hiromi Kubagawa, M.D., a professor in the UAB Department of Pathology and the lead study author.
 
 

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