Keyhole limpet hemocyanin: molecular structure of a potent marine immunoactivator. A review

Eur Urol. 2000;37 Suppl 3:24-33. doi: 10.1159/000052389.


Objectives: In this short review we present a survey of the available biochemical and electron microscopic data on keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH).

Results: The biosynthesis of KLH and its biological role are discussed and the purification of the two isoforms of KLH (KLH1 and KLH2) presented in some detail. The determination of the molecular mass of KLH, its functional unit structure, carbohydrate content, immunological analysis and aspects of the molecular biology of KLH are all dealt with. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and crossed immunoelectrophoresis have played a significant part in the understanding of KLH structure. We present a summary of TEM studies on the native oligomers of KLH, the experimental manipulation of the different oligomeric states, immunological analysis and subunit reassociation.

Conclusion: This fundamental structural information provides the scientific background upon which the understanding of the in vivo immunostimulatory function of KLH can be based.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / biosynthesis
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / chemistry*
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / isolation & purification
  • Animals
  • Carbohydrates
  • Hemocyanins / biosynthesis
  • Hemocyanins / chemistry*
  • Hemocyanins / isolation & purification
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Models, Chemical
  • Molecular Biology
  • Molecular Weight
  • Mollusca
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Carbohydrates
  • Hemocyanins
  • keyhole-limpet hemocyanin