Analysis of Pre-existing IgG and IgM Antibodies against Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) in the General Population

Anal Chem. 2016 Dec 6;88(23):11804-11812. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b03437. Epub 2016 Nov 16.


Circulating antibodies (Ab) that specifically bind polyethylene glycol (PEG), a biocompatible polymer routinely used in protein and nanoparticle therapeutics, have been associated with reduced efficacy of and/or adverse reactions to therapeutics modified with or containing PEG. Unlike most antidrug antibodies that are induced following initial drug dosing, anti-PEG Ab can be found in treatment-naïve individuals (i.e., individuals who have never undergone treatment with PEGylated drugs but most likely have been exposed to PEG through other means). Unfortunately, the true prevalence, quantitative levels, and Ab isotype of pre-existing anti-PEG Ab remain poorly understood. Here, using rigorously validated competitive ELISAs with engineered chimeric anti-PEG monoclonal Ab standards, we quantified the levels of anti-PEG IgM and different subclasses of anti-PEG IgG (IgG1-4) in both contemporary and historical human samples. We unexpectedly found, with 90% confidence, detectable levels of anti-PEG Ab in ∼72% of the contemporary specimens (18% IgG, 25% IgM, 30% both IgG and IgM). The vast majority of these samples contained low levels of anti-PEG Ab, with only ∼7% and ∼1% of all specimens possessing anti-PEG IgG and IgM in excess of 500 ng/mL, respectively. IgG2 was the predominant anti-PEG IgG subclass. Anti-PEG Ab's were also observed in ∼56% of serum samples collected during 1970-1999 (20% IgG, 19% IgM, and 16% both IgG and IgM), suggesting that the presence of PEG-specific antibodies may be a longstanding phenomenon. Anti-PEG IgG levels demonstrated correlation with patient age, but not with gender or race. The widespread prevalence of pre-existing anti-PEG Ab, coupled with high Ab levels in a subset of the population, underscores the potential importance of screening patients for anti-PEG Ab levels prior to administration of therapeutics containing PEG.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigen-Antibody Reactions
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin M / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polyethylene Glycols / analysis*
  • Young Adult


  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Polyethylene Glycols