Effects of protein aggregates: an immunologic perspective

AAPS J. 2006 Aug 4;8(3):E501-7. doi: 10.1208/aapsj080359.


The capacity of protein aggregates to enhance immune responses to the monomeric form of the protein has been known for over a half-century. Despite the clear connection between protein aggregates and antibody mediated adverse events in treatment with early therapeutic protein products such as intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) and human growth hormone, surprisingly little is known about the nature of the aggregate species responsible for such effects. This review focuses on a framework for understanding how aggregate species potentially interact with the immune system to enhance immune responses, garnered from basic immunologic research. Thus, protein antigens presented in a highly arrayed structure, such as might be found in large nondenatured aggregate species, are highly potent in inducing antibody responses even in the absence of T-cell help. Their potency may relate to the ability of multivalent protein species to extensively cross-link B-cell receptor, which (1) activates B cells via Bt kinases to proliferate, and (2) targets protein to class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-loading compartments, efficiently eliciting T-cell help for antibody responses. The review further focuses on protein aggregates as they affect an immunogenicity risk assessment, the use of animal models and studies in uncovering effects of protein aggregates, and changes in product manufacture and packaging that may affect generation of protein aggregates.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / immunology*
  • Antibody Formation / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Proteins / immunology*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Risk


  • Antibodies
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Proteins