IgG4-mediated autoimmune diseases: a niche of antibody-mediated disorders

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2018 Feb;1413(1):92-103. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13561. Epub 2018 Jan 28.


Immunoglobulin 4 (IgG4) is one of four human IgG subclasses and has several unique functional characteristics. It exhibits low affinity for complement and for most Fc receptors. It furthermore has generally high affinity for its antigen, with binding occurring in a monovalent fashion, as IgG4 can exchange Fab-arms with other IgG4 molecules. Because of these characteristics, IgG4 is believed to block its targets and prevent inflammation, which, depending on the setting, can have a protective or pathogenic effect. One example of IgG4 pathogenicity is muscle-specific kinase (MuSK) myasthenia gravis (MG), in which patients develop IgG4 MuSK autoantibodies, resulting in muscle weakness. As a consequence of the distinct IgG4 characteristics, the pathomechanism of MuSK MG is very different from IgG1-and IgG3-mediated autoimmune diseases, such as acetylcholine receptor MG. In recent years, new autoantibodies in a spectrum of autoimmune diseases have been discovered. Interestingly, some were found to be predominantly IgG4. These IgG4-mediated autoimmune diseases share many pathomechanistic aspects with MuSK MG, suggesting that IgG4-mediated autoimmunity forms a separate niche among the antibody-mediated disorders. In this review, we summarize the group of IgG4-mediated autoimmune diseases, discuss the role of IgG4 in MuSK MG, and highlight interesting future research questions for IgG4-mediated autoimmunity.

Keywords: IgG4; MuSK; autoimmunity; myasthenia gravis; neuromuscular junction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies / immunology*
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / classification
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology*
  • Muscle Weakness / pathology
  • Myasthenia Gravis / immunology*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / metabolism
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / immunology*
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / immunology*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptors, Cholinergic
  • MUSK protein, human
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases