A natural cerebroside (antiC) IgM antibody was found at relatively high levels in the serum of every healthy individual studied. The reactivity of the antibody was assessed by using highly purified bovine brain galactocerebroside (galC) or human glucocerebroside (gluC) as antigen. The importance of fatty acid moiety of galC in antigen-antibody reaction was demonstrated by low immunoreactivity using 1-beta-D-galactosyl sphingosine (GS) as antigen and by the absence of absorption to GS-bearing liposomes. The presence of alpha-hydroxy and non-hydroxy fatty acids in galC did not modify its immunoreactivity. Cerebroside antibody binding activity was only partially blocked by 0.5 M galactose or alpha- and beta-methylgalactopyranoside, suggesting poor specificity of antiC for a specific glycosidic residue or linkage. In fact, liposome-bearing gluC absorbed galC. AntiC did not adsorb on rabbit, guinea pig, or human erythrocytes (RBC), but absorbed strongly on rat RBC. Elevated antibody levels were found in 57% of Kala azar patients, 56% of Trypanosoma rangeli-infected patients, 30% of chronic chagasic patients, and 20% of cutaneous leishmaniasis patients, but were not found in 16 other inflammatory or infectious diseases studied. This suggests an association between Kinetoplastida infection and elevated levels of antiC, with parasitic galC acting probably as a highly immunogenic antigen. A possible role of anti-galC in the neuropathological symptoms of Chagas' disease and in the control of parasitemia levels in T. rangeli-infected individuals is discussed.
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