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Clues to Gut Immunity Evolution: Research Reveals Similarities Between Fish and Humans

A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has identified the function of one of the earliest antibodies in the animal kingdom, an ancient immunoglobulin that helps explain the evolution of human intestinal immune responses. It was discovered to play a predominant role in the guts of fish and paves the way for a better understanding of human gut immunity as well as for safer, healthier approaches to keeping fish from pathogen infections.

The study identified unique aspects of the structure and function of a fish antibody, IgT, and points to this molecule as the most ancient vertebrate immunoglobulin specialized in mucosal immunity. The findings challenge the present paradigm that specialization of immunoglobulin isotypes into different body areas, i.e., intestine and blood, arose during the evolution of four-legged creatures, or tetrapods. While IgT was discovered five years ago, its structure and function remained an enigma.

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