IgG-mediated suppression of antibody responses: Hiding or snatching epitopes?

Hui Xu, Birgitta Heyman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Antibodies forming a complex with antigen in vivo can dramatically change the antibody response to this antigen. In some situations, the response will be a 100-fold stronger than in animals immunized with antigen alone, and in other situations, the response will be completely suppressed. IgG is known to suppress the antibody response, for example to erythrocytes, and this is used clinically in Rhesus prophylaxis. The mechanism behind IgG-mediated immune suppression is still not understood. Here, we will review studies performed in experimental animal models and discuss the various hypotheses put forward to explain the profound suppressive effect of IgG. We conclude that an exclusive role for negative regulation of B cells through FcγRIIB, increased clearance of erythrocytes from the circulation or complement-mediated lysis is unlikely. Epitope masking, where IgG hides the epitope from B cells, or trogocytosis, where IgG removes the epitope from the erythrocyte, is compatible with many observations. These two mechanisms are not mutually exclusive. Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that clearance, in combination with other mechanisms, plays a role.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12921
Number of pages14
JournalScandinavian Journal of Immunology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • B cells
  • blood epitope masking
  • complement
  • experimental animals
  • Fc receptors
  • Fc-gamma receptor
  • Rhesus
  • suppression
  • trogocytosis

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