The most abundant immunoglobulin in human serum is immunoglobulin G (IgG) (approximately 80% of the total). IgG protein is comprised of molecules of 4 subclasses designated IgG1 through IgG4. Each subclass contains molecules with a structurally unique gamma heavy chain. Of total IgG, approximately 65% is IgG1, 25% is IgG2, 6% is IgG3, and 4% is IgG4. Molecules of different IgG subclasses have somewhat different biologic properties (eg, complement fixing ability and binding to phagocytic cells), which are determined by structural differences in gamma heavy chains. Clinical interest in IgG subclasses concerns potential immunodeficiencies (eg, subclass deficiencies) and IgG4-related diseases (eg, IgG4 elevations). The IgG subclass assay (IGGS / IgG Subclasses, Serum) is best for deficiency testing, and the IgG4 assay (IGGS4 / Immunoglobulin Subclass IgG4, Serum) is best for IgG4-related disease testing.
Diminished concentrations of IgG subclass proteins may occur in the context of hypogammaglobulinemia (eg, in common variable immunodeficiency where all immunoglobulin classes are generally affected) or deficiencies may be selective, usually involving IgG2.
Deficiency of IgG1 usually occurs in patients with severe immunoglobulin deficiency involving other IgG subclasses.
Deficiency of IgG2 is more heterogeneous and can occur as an isolated deficiency or in combination with deficiency of immunoglobulin A (IgA), or of IgA and other IgG subclasses. Most patients with IgG2 deficiency present with recurrent infections, usually sinusitis, otitis, or pulmonary infections. Children with deficiency of IgG2 often have deficient antibody responses to polysaccharide antigens including bacterial antigens associated with Haemophilus influenzae type B and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Isolated deficiencies of IgG3 or IgG4 occur rarely, and the clinical significance of these findings is not clear.
May mean a long-term (chronic) infection, such as AIDS, is present. Levels of IgG are higher in IgG MGUS, IgG multiple myeloma, long-term hepatitis, and multiple sclerosis (MS). In multiple myeloma, tumor cells make only one type of IgG antibody (monoclonal); the other conditions cause an increase in many types of IgG antibodies (polyclonal).
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