In Memoriam - Ivan da Mota e Albuquerque

Professor Wilmar Dias da Silva , who is a full member of Brazilian Academy of Science, writes about his advisor, Ivan da Mota e Albuquerque , that recently passed away.

"Ivan Mota - as he was known - immunologist, member of this Academy, died on September 25th 2014 at the age of 94. After obtaining his MD degree from "Faculdade de Medicina", "Universidade de Recife, Pernambuco", Brazil, he moved to the " Departamento de Histologia, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de São Paulo " first as an Assistant and later on as an Associate Professor. In accepting successive invitations he was an "Honorary Research Assistant", at the University College of London, UK (1957-1958), a "Fellow" of Department of Microbiology and Immunology", at the School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA, "Research Associate", at the Division of Research in Biology and Medicine, of the Argone National Laboratory, (in a joint appointment with the ??) University of Chicago, USA (1962-1963), a "Visiting Professor", at the Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, Georgetown University, USA, and a "Research Associate" at the Department of Immunochemistry, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, USA. In his early 60s he became "Full Professor at the Immunology Center in the Biomedic Sciences Institute of the University of São Paulo, Brazil (1980-1986). He continued as a leading scientist at the Instituto Butantan, São Paulo, Brazil. He was also head of the "Immunology Research and Training Center" of the World Health Organization and of the "Pan American Health Organization" (from 1971 to 1985) and a member of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Immunology(from 1972 to 1991). He was awarded with several prizes and honors. Among these "Membro Titular da Academia Brasileira de Ciências" "Comendador da Ordem Nacional do Mérito Cientifico" ("Commander of the National Order and Scientific Merit") and the "Prêmio Moinho Santista de Imunologia" (Moinho Santista Immunology Award").

His research lead him to become a worldwide recognized scientist, at first as a classical histologist and later on moving to other topics. Blood marrow mast cell received his attention first, as a beautiful inert cytoplasmic-rich methachromatic cells (Mota I. I.(1951). A method for quantitative estimation of mast cells in the bone marrow of the rat), next by demonstrating that the cytoplasm granulations of these cells store histamine (Mota I, Junqueira LCU, Beraldo WT, and Ferri AG. 1954. Intracellular distribuition of histamine. Nature, 174: 698-699) culminating with the demonstration that these cells upon contact with the sensitizing antigens, are degranulated concomitantly with histamine release (Mota I. 1958. Mast cells and anaphylaxis, 149, 6P) . Two questions immediately arose: Does the sensitizing antibody need to bind on the mast cell surface? ARE additional serum factors besides antibody also needed to start mast cell degranulation? To answer these questions, peritoneal mast cells from immunized and non-immunized rats were isolated and examined under phase contrast microscopy. Granule extrusion from the cytoplasm to outside mast cells occurs immediately after the antigen addition (Mota I and Dias da Silva W. 1960. Antigen induced damage to isolated sensitized mast cells. Nature, 186:245-246) . Although mast cell surface-associated antibody was essential, non-antibodies additional serum factors were not.

Stimulated by this observation he decided to pursue studies aiming to identify better conditions for producing mast cell-mediating degranulation antibodies. The ability of the immunological adjuvants B. pertussis and Freund’s completion of increasing mast cell-activating antibody production were compared experimentally. Mast cells present in fragments of mesentery from rats immunized with the antigen plus B. pertussis were highly susceptible to degranulation upon contact with the antigen, but his serum contained little antigen precipitating antibodies. In contrast, rats immunized with the some antigen in Freund’s complete adjuvant although containing high amounts of serum precipitating antibodies their mesentery mast cells were seldom susceptible to antigen-inducing degranulation. The existence of a peculiar antibody first designed "mast cell lytic antibody" able to sensitize the mast cell and elicits degranulation upon contact with antigen was then postulated (Mota I. 1961. Mast cell lytic antibodies. Nature, 192:1201), and an observation soon confirmed by other authors (Binagh R and Benacerraf B. 1964. The production of anaphylactic antibody in the rat. J. Immunol. 92:920-926) . Later, after verifying that antibody-sensitized mast cells rather than being lysed but activated upon contact with the specific antigen was activated, the involved antibody was then nominated "mast cell sensitizing-antibody" (Mota I. 1963.Biological characterization of "mast cell sensitizing " antibodies". Life Sciences, 1:465-474; Mota I. 1963. The mechanism of anaphylaxis. I. Production and biological properties of mast cell sensitizing antibodies. Immunology, 7:681-699; Mota I. 1994. The discovery of the relationship between mast cells, histamine and IgE. Immunology Today, 15:242-245) . In pursuing further biological characterization of the "mast cell-sensitizing antibody", its loss of the ability of mediating mast cell degranulation to heating at 56°C was added to the repertoire of biological activities of this antibody. (Mota I. and Peixoto JM. 1966. A skin-sensitizing and thermobile antibody in the mouse. Life Sci., 5:1723-1725) . Confirming his observations a similar heat-labile anaphylactic antibody was also described in rabbits (Zvaifler NJ and Becker EL. 1969.Rabbit anaphylactic antibody. J. Exp. Med. 123:935-950) .

A quite similar anaphylactic antibody well characterized by the already described intrinsic distinct properties as capable of sensitizing mast cells to release histamine an activity destroyed by heating at 56°C, and stimulated by particular immunological adjuvants was later described in human allergic patients (Ishizaka K and Ishizaka T. 1966. Physicochemical properties of reaginic antibodies. I.Association of reaginic activity with an immunoglobulin other than γ-A or γ-G globulin. J. Allergy,336-345) . Unexplainably, Ivan da Mota e Albuquerque’s contributions were not correctly contemplated among the IgE describers (Mota I. 1995. The riddle of mast cells. Ciência e Cultura,46:476-481) .

The "PAHO/WHO Immunology Research and Training Centre in Brazil" aim was to introduce immunology to young scientist candidates, at that time an emerging promising new biomedical science branch. Highly recognized immunologists from different parts of the world including Brazil were responsible for the lectures. Through advanced meetings involving students and teachers, emerging immunological and related themes were analyzed and discussed in detail. Laboratory activities having different immunochemical and cell immunology methods were conducted in parallel. Prof. Ivan, either as researcher or the Director of the "Immunology Research and Training Center" was always a constant presence. The then promising young immunologist candidates, and now fluorescent first generations of immunologist from Brazil and other South America countries, were certainly well prepared during these courses. Another unforgettable aspect of Prof. Ivan Mota’s personality, which was manifested when he supervised students, was his constant capacity of inspiring the students to love science and education.

By that time Ivan da Mota e Albuquerque scientific interests moved also productively to animal venom toxins and anti-venoms, always having students among his co-workers ( Barbaro KC, Eicksted VRD, and Mota I.1994. Adjuvant effect of Loxosceles gaucho (South American Brown Spider, venom. Toxicon. 32:687-693; Fernandes, I, Gourmont F, LatinneD, Basin H, Takehara HA and Mota I. 1994. A rapid and efficient purification, method for horse IgG(T) using rat monoclonal antibody. Braz. J. Med. Biol. Res.27:2599-2606) .

Dr. Ivan Mota although has describe in experimental animals the main biological properties of the IgE immunoglobulin, unfortunately, his name has not yet be included among the describers of that immunoglobulin."


(Prof. Wilmar Dias da Silva  - full member of Brazilian Academy of Sciences)


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