Forssman Antigen

Peter F Miihlradt, Immunobiology Research Group, Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung mbH, Braunschweig, Germany

The Forssman antigen was named after the Swedish pathologist John F. Forssman (1868-1947) who reported, in 1911, that antibodies produced in rabbits against organ homogenates from guinea pigs reacted with sheep erythrocytes, causing hemolysis. The Forssman antigen is thus an example of a heter-ophile antigen or hapten which occurs in several species. In 1936 Forssman antigen was recognized by F. E. Brunius as a hexosamine-containing lipid. The determinant was later identified as the GalNAca(l-3)GalNAc|3(l-R) disaccharide group. The complete structure of a Forssman-specific glycosphingolipid from horse spleen was published in 1971 by B. Sid-diqui and S. I. Hakomori. Forssman specificity was described in many animal species, plants and bacteria. In some species, for example the mouse, Forssman antigen is a developmental and differentiation antigen. Although it is mostly expressed on the cell surface, there are examples of expression inside cells. Antibodies against Forssman antigen can be used to induce shock in guinea pigs.

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