Anti-PEG antibodies: Properties, formation, testing and role in adverse immune reactions to PEGylated nano-biopharmaceuticals

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2020;154-155:163-175. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2020.07.024. Epub 2020 Aug 1.


Conjugation of polyethylene glycols (PEGs) to proteins or drug delivery nanosystems is a widely accepted method to increase the therapeutic index of complex nano-biopharmaceuticals. Nevertheless, these drugs and agents are often immunogenic, triggering the rise of anti-drug antibodies (ADAs). Among these ADAs, anti-PEG IgG and IgM were shown to account for efficacy loss due to accelerated blood clearance of the drug (ABC phenomenon) and hypersensitivity reactions (HSRs) entailing severe allergic symptoms with occasionally fatal anaphylaxis. In addition to recapitulating the basic information on PEG and its applications, this review expands on the physicochemical factors influencing its immunogenicity, the prevalence, features, mechanism of formation and detection of anti-PEG IgG and IgM and the mechanisms by which these antibodies (Abs) induce ABC and HSRs. In particular, we highlight the in vitro, animal and human data attesting to anti-PEG Ab-induced complement (C) activation as common underlying cause of both adverse effects. A main message is that correct measurement of anti-PEG Abs and individual proneness for C activation might predict the rise of adverse immune reactions to PEGylated drugs and thereby increase their efficacy and safety.

Keywords: Accelerated blood clearance (ABC); Adverse drug reactions (ADRs); Anti-drug antibodies; Biologicals; C activation-related pseudoallergy (CARPA); Complement; Drug targeting; Hypersensitivity reactions; Immunogenicity; Liposomes; Nanomedicines; Pharmacokinetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies* / administration & dosage
  • Antibodies* / adverse effects
  • Antibodies* / chemistry
  • Biological Assay
  • Humans
  • Nanomedicine
  • Polyethylene Glycols*


  • Antibodies
  • Polyethylene Glycols