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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 May 28;93(11):5512-6.

The protection receptor for IgG catabolism is the beta2-microglobulin-containing neonatal intestinal transport receptor.

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  • 1Biotherapeutics Development Lab, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215.


More than 30 years ago, Brambell published the hypothesis bearing his name [Brambell, F. W. R., Hemmings, W. A. & Morris, 1. C. (1964) Nature (London) 203, 1352-1355] that remains as the cornerstone for thinking on IgG catabolism. To explain the long survival of IgG relative to other plasma proteins and its pattern of increased fractional catabolism with high concentrations of IgG, Brambell postulated specific IgG "protection receptors" (FcRp) that would bind IgG in pinocytic vacuoles and redirect its transport to the circulation; when the FcRp was saturated, the excess unbound IgG then would pass to unrestricted lysosomal catabolism. Brambell subsequently postulated the neonatal gut transport receptor (FcRn) and showed its similar saturable character. FcRn was recently cloned but FcRp has not been identified. Using a genetic knockout that disrupts the FcRn and intestinal IgG transport, we show that this lesion also disrupts the IgG protection receptor, supporting the identity of these two receptors. IgG catabolism was 10-fold faster and IgG levels were correspondingly lower in mutant than in wild-type mice, whereas IgA was the same between groups, demonstrating the specific effects on the IgG system. Disruption of the FcRp in the mutant mice was also shown to abrogate the classical pattern of decreased IgG survival with higher IgC concentration. Finally, studies in normal mice with monomeric antigen-antibody complexes showed differential catabolism in which antigen dissociates in the endosome and passes to the lysosome, whereas the associated antibody is returned to circulation; in mutant mice, differential catabolism was lost and the whole complex cleared at the same accelerated rate as albumin, showing the central role of the FcRp to the differential catabolism mechanism. Thus, the same receptor protein that mediates the function of the FcRn transiently in the neonate is shown to have its functionally dominant expression as the FcRp throughout life, resolving a longstanding mystery of the identity of the receptor for the protection of IgG. This result also identifies an important new member of the class of recycling surface receptors and enables the design of protein adaptations to exploit this mechanism to improve survivals of other therapeutic proteins in vivo.

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