Selective decrease of M leprae-specific IgG1 and IgG3 antibodies in leprosy patients associated with ENL

Document Type



Pathology and Laboratory Medicine


Erythema nodosum leprosum (ENL) is a serious complication of lepromatous leprosy. Because of the similarities with the Arthus-type reaction, ENL is presumed to be due to immune complex formation and their deposition in tissues. The aim of this study was to dissect the antibody response at the IgG subclass level to ascertain differences in IgG subclasses in nonreactional lepromatous/borderline lepromatous (LL/BL) patients and reactional (ENL) lepromatous patients. The ENL group showed significantly lower serum antibody levels for the four subclasses compared to the LL/BL group of patients using the Mann-Whitney U test (IgG1, p = 0.0001; IgG2, p = 0.0009; IgG3, p = 0.0001; IgG4, p = 0.03). Since the majority of ENL patients (54 of 67) had received leprosy chemotherapy for varying durations of time, LL/BL patients were also compared with 19 ENL patients who had received < or = 2 weeks of chemotherapy. In this group only IgG1 (p = 0.048) and IgG2 (p = 0.001) antibodies showed significantly lower concentrations. Immunoblotting analysis demonstrated that in ENL patients IgG1 showed a selective disappearance of several antigenic bands recognized by the LL/BL serum pool; while most of the antigens recognized by IgG3 antibodies in the LL/BL serum pool were not detected in the ENL serum pool or in the sera of pretreated individual ENL patients. These results suggest that IgG1 and IgG3 may be the most pathogenic IgG subclass antibodies during ENL, and their deposition in tissues could initiate the complement-mediated inflammatory pathway resulting in the clinical disease associated with ENL.


International Journal of Leprosy and Other Mycobacterial Diseases