To study how the different immunoglobulin (Ig)G subclass antibodies may confer protection against systemic meningococcal disease, we isolated IgG1, IgG2 and IgG3 antibodies from plasma from vaccinees immunized with the Norwegian meningococcal outer membrane vesicle vaccine. Four IgG1, one IgG2 and four IgG3 preparations were purified. The IgG2 and IgG3 subclass preparations were free from contaminating subclasses, whereas the IgG1 preparations contained from 0 to 14% of IgG2 and/or IgG3. Immunoblotting against whole-cell meningococcal antigens showed broad specificities of the various preparations, both within and between subclasses. These subclass preparations were tested for opsonophagocytic and bactericidal activity. As targets we used two different variants of the meningococcal vaccine strain, with low (44/76-SL) and high (44/76-1) expression of the outer membrane protein Opc. Using polymorphonuclear leucocytes as effector cells in the presence of human complement, all three IgG subclass preparations revealed high, and similar, opsonophagocytic activities against 44/76-SL, whereas against 44/76-1 the IgG2 preparation showed a reduced activity and most IgG3 preparations were slightly more active than the IgG1 preparations. Regarding bactericidal activity, all the three subclasses were highly active against 44/76-SL. Against 44/76-1 the bactericidal activities were somewhat more varied: all IgG1 and three IgG3 preparations exhibited higher activities than against 44/76-SL. Due to the low concentration in the IgG2 preparations, only a weak activity was seen against 44/76-1. One IgG3 preparation that was highly opsonophagocytic revealed no bactericidal activity against either of the two bacterial variants examined. In conclusion, we have shown that the IgG subclass effector functions differ from person to person, but that antibodies of IgG1, IgG2 and IgG3 subclasses, judged by their behaviour in the functional tests, may all contribute to protection against meningococcal disease.