Kathy Magor

Assistant Professor
Scholar, Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research

Mailing address:
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta,
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E9
E-mail: kmagor@ualberta.ca
Fax address: (780) 492-9234
Phone Number: (780) 492-5498

Academic degrees

BSc: Dalhousie University -Biochemistry/Biology Honors
MSc: Dalhousie University-Molecular Biology
Ph.D.: Medical University of South Carolina - Immunogenetics of ducks, advisor Dr. Greg Warr
Post-doctoral Fellow- Hong Kong University -Immunogenetics of ducks, advisor Dr. David Higgins
Post-doctoral Fellow-Stanford University- Evolution of the MHC, advisor Dr. Peter Parha         


Research Techniques in Immunology
Comparative Immunology
Infection and Immunity


Member, Immunology and Infection Program Committee
Member, Immunet Council
Advisor, Immunology and Infection Honours and Specialization Program

Professional Affiliations

International Society for Developmental and Comparative Immunology
Canadian Society for Immunology

Interested in Graduate Studies in Immunogenetics?
The best candidates for research in my laboratory have an interest in the evolution of the immune response to pathogens, and training in immunology and genetics. Previous research experience in molecular biology is a valuable asset.

Undergraduates are encouraged to pursue summer studentships and Honours research projects in my lab provided they have taken the Introductory Immunology course INTD 371 or equivalent. Summer research projects will depend on obtaining NSERC or AHFMR support, so a GPA of 8 on the 9 scale is required. 

Current Research interests

My primary research interest is the evolution of the immune response to pathogens. My interest in comparative immunology is in both its practical applications to commercial farming and its potential for contribution to our understanding of fundamental immunology. I study the genes involved in anti-viral defense in non-mammalian systems.

Ducks are the primary host of influenza virus, which can mutate in ducks and be passed to us. In fact, all flu outbreaks originated in ducks. Also, ducks carry a hepatitis B virus that is closely related to the virus that infects us, and cell lines can be used to test anti-viral agents. These viruses are able to exploit the duck because of defects in the duck immune system and evasion strategies of the viruses. Understanding why the duck cannot get rid of influenza or hepatitis viruses may identify new ways in which these same viruses elude our immune defenses.

Initial work will focus on the class I Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes of ducks, which are involved directly in the recognition of viruses. MHC Class I genes, by virtue of their role as disease resistance genes, evolve rapidly and therefore are different in each species. Furthermore, class I genes are a multigene family and the alleles are highly polymorphic and different in each individual. The diversity of these genes in the population directly relates to the ability of the species to survive. M.Sc. student Christine Mesa has identified these genes in the duck, and is exploring the diversity of these genes in natural duck populations in Alberta.

M.Sc students, Will Branton and Simona Veniamin are seeking markers for identification of lymphocyte types in ducks. Related projects will focus on identifying other genes of the duck immune system using microarraying approaches.


Evolution of the immune system.

Our research interest is in the evolution of the immune system. Very recently we reviewed the progress in identifying the effectors and receptors involved in innate immunity in lower vertebrates. Previously, I reviewed the revolution molecular approaches were having on the study of the evolution of the immune system.

1. Magor BG, Magor KE. Evolution of effectors and receptors of innate immunity. 2001. Dev Comp Immunol. 25(8-9):651-82. Review.

2. Magor KE, Vasta GR. 1998. Ancestral immunity comes of age. Immunol Today 19(2):54-6.

Characterization of the immune system of trout.

This work has a practical application in contributing to our understanding of immune defense against an intracellular pathogen causing Whirling Disease that is presently decimating wild stocks of rainbow trout.

1. Shum BP, Rajalingam R, Magor KE, Azumi K, Carr WH, Dixon B, Stet RJ, Adkison MA, Hedrick RP, Parham P. 1999. A divergent non-classical class I gene conserved in salmonids. Immunogenetics;49(6):479-90.

2.Dixon B, Shum B, Adams EJ, Magor KE, Hedrick RP, Muir DG, Parham P. 1998. CK-1, a putative chemokine of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Immunol Rev;166:341-8.

3. The beta-2 microglobulin locus of rainbow trout. In progress.

Identification of naturally occurring null HLA alleles.

We discovered that a single stop codon in frame resulted in the complete degradation of the messenger RNA encoding the allele. Since these mutations arise in tumors and in the population, we characterized the effect of point mutations throughout the gene.

1. Watanabe Y, Magor KE, Parham. 2001. Exon 5 encoding the transmembrane region of HLA-A contains a transitional region for the induction of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay. J Immunol;167(12):6901-11.

2. Magor KE, Taylor EJ, Shen SY, Martinez-Naves E, Valiante NM, Wells RS, Gumperz JE, Adams EJ, Little AM, Williams F, Middleton D, Gao X, McCluskey J, Parham P, Lienert-Weidenbach K. 1997. Natural inactivation of a common HLA allele (A*2402) has occurred on at least three separate occasions. J Immunol;158(11):5242-50.

Immunogenetic defects of ducks.

We determined that ducks have genetic defects in their two main antibody genes. The IgY gene (the avian IgG homologue) contains an additional exon that is used in making a truncated antibody lacking the Fc region. This truncated antibody cannot participate in the normal effector functions of the IgG antibody. Our characterization of the duck immunoglobulin locus revealed that the IgA gene is reversed in the locus. While this would potentially make class switching difficult, we did demonstrate that IgA is expressed in the appropriate tissues. These defects make the duck particularly susceptible to infections.

1. Magor KE, Higgins DA, Middleton DL, Warr GW. 1999. Opposite orientation of the alpha- and upsilon-chain constant region genes in the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus of the duck. Immunogenetics 49(7-8):692-5.

2. Magor KE, Warr GW, Bando Y, Middleton DL, Higgins DA. 1998. Secretory immune system of the duck (Anas platyrhynchos). Identification and expression of the genes encoding IgA and IgM heavy chains. Eur J Immunol;28(3):1063-8.

3. Magor KE, Higgins DA, Middleton DL, Warr GW. 1994. One gene encodes the heavy chains for three different forms of IgY in the duck. J Immunol.;153(12):5549-55.


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