Unraveling the Macromolecular Pathways of IgG Oligomerization and Complement Activation on Antigenic Surfaces

Jürgen Strasser, Rob N. de Jong, Frank J. Beurskens, Guanbo Wang, Albert J. R. Heck, Janine Schuurman, Paul W. H. I. Parren, Peter Hinterdorfer, Johannes Preiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


IgG antibodies play a central role in protection against pathogens by their ability to alert and activate the innate immune system. Here, we show that IgGs assemble into oligomers on antigenic surfaces through an ordered, Fc domain-mediated process that can be modulated by protein engineering. Using high-speed atomic force microscopy, we unraveled the molecular events of IgG oligomer formation on surfaces. IgG molecules were recruited from solution although assembly of monovalently binding molecules also occurred through lateral diffusion. Monomers were observed to assemble into hexamers with all intermediates detected, but in which only hexamers bound C1. Functional characterization of oligomers on cells also demonstrated that C1 binding to IgG hexamers was a prerequisite for maximal activation, whereas tetramers, trimers, and dimers were mostly inactive. We present a dynamic IgG oligomerization model, which provides a framework for exploiting the macromolecular assembly of IgGs on surfaces for tool, immunotherapy, and vaccine design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4787-4796
Number of pages10
JournalNano Letters
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2019


  • IgG hexamers
  • IgG oligomerization
  • classical complement pathway
  • C1 immune complex formation
  • high-speed atomic force microscopy
  • native mass spectrometry
  • immune complex formation
  • C1


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