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Proteins from diverse sources in our environment — foods, insects and pollen — can cause IgE-mediated allergy in susceptible people. Some of these proteins are highly potent allergens in minute amounts. The immunogenicity of a protein is controlled by the genetic makeup of the host and the route of protein entry and may also be partly controlled by the chemical nature of the proteins. Together these factors can influence the magnitude and the isotype distribution of antibody responses in the immunized host.

Dr. King’s lab has studied the major allergens from venoms of bees and vespids, a group that includes hornets, wasps and yellow jackets. One allergen common to bees and vespids is the enzyme hyaluronidase. Hyaluronan is a polymer in our tissues consisting of repeating units of the disaccharide of glucuronic acid and N-acetylglucosamine, and hyaluronidase degrades it into oligomers. It is known that hyaluronan polymer is biologically inert but its oligomers have varying activities on different cell types depending on its size. Dr. King’s recent studies show that hyaluronan fragments produced by venom hyaluronidase can function as adjuvants to promote IgE response in mice.

Dr. King received his A.B. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He came to Rockefeller in 1953 as an assistant and was named assistant professor in 1957 and associate professor in 1963.