Antigenic specificity and expression of a natural idiotope on human pentameric and hexameric IgM polymers

Immunol Res. 2011 Oct;51(1):97-107. doi: 10.1007/s12026-011-8236-8.


Natural antibodies (NAbs) are present in circulation even before the exposure to antigen and they exert various biological functions. They are polyreactive and mainly represented by immunoglobulin M (IgM), which is the first antibody produced in an ongoing immune response to infection and/or immunization. IgM is always secreted as a polymer with predominant pentameric structure, although other polymeric forms such as hexamer can be also formed. The biological functions of hexameric IgM are still not known and it is proposed that its existence as a NAb could be deleterious. However, the nature of IgM hexamers has not been investigated yet. In this paper, we have tested the expression of natural idiotope and antigenic specificities of pentameric and hexameric IgM polymers originating from sera of patients with Waldenström's macroglobulinemia, as well as patients suffering from recurrent urinary bacterial infections. We demonstrate that although pentameric IgM polymers can exist as natural and immune antibodies, IgM hexamers are exclusively immune and do not exist as NAbs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibody Specificity / immunology*
  • Bacteriuria / blood
  • Bacteriuria / complications
  • Bacteriuria / immunology*
  • Bacteriuria / microbiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin J-Chains / blood
  • Immunoglobulin J-Chains / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / immunology*
  • Male
  • Protein Multimerization / immunology*
  • Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia / blood
  • Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia / complications
  • Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia / immunology*
  • Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia / microbiology


  • Immunoglobulin J-Chains
  • Immunoglobulin M