Structure-immunogenicity relationships of therapeutic proteins

Pharm Res. 2004 Jun;21(6):897-903. doi: 10.1023/b:pham.0000029275.41323.a6.


As more recombinant human proteins become available on the market, the incidence of immunogenicity problems is rising. The antibodies formed against a therapeutic protein can result in serious clinical effects, such as loss of efficacy and neutralization of the endogenous protein with essential biological functions. Here we review the literature on the relations between the immunogenicity of the therapeutic proteins and their structural properties. The mechanisms by which protein therapeutics can induce antibodies as well as the models used to study immunogenicity are discussed. Examples of how the chemical structure (including amino acid sequence, glycosylation, and pegylation) can influence the incidence and level of antibody formation are given. Moreover, it is shown that physical degradation (especially aggregation) of the proteins as well as chemical decomposition (e.g., oxidation) may enhance the immune response. To what extent the presence of degradation products in protein formulations influences their immunogenicity still needs further investigation. Immunization of transgenic animals, tolerant for the human protein, with well-defined, artificially prepared degradation products of therapeutic proteins may shed more light on the structure-immunogenicity relationships of recombinant human proteins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / drug effects
  • Netherlands
  • Protein Engineering / methods
  • Recombinant Proteins / immunology*
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Recombinant Proteins