Biochemistry (Moscow)

, Volume 76, Issue 5, pp 534–549 | Cite as

IgM and its receptors: Structural and functional aspects

  • V. B. KlimovichEmail author


This review combines the data obtained before the beginning of the 1990s with results published during the last two decades. The predominant form of the IgM molecule is a closed ring composed of five 7S subunits and a J chain. The new model of spatial structure of the pentamer postulates nonplanar mushroom-shaped form of the molecule with the plane formed by a radially-directed Fab regions and central protruding portion consisting of Cμ4 domains. Up to the year 2000 the only known Fc-receptor for IgM was pIgR. Interaction of IgM with pIgR results in secretory IgM formation, whose functions are poorly studied. The receptor designated as Fcα/μR is able to bind IgM and IgA. It is expressed on lymphocytes, follicular dendritic cells, and macrophages. A receptor binding IgM only named FcμR has also been described. It is expressed on T- and B-lymphocytes. The discovery of new Fc-receptors for IgM requires revision of notions that interactions between humoral reactions involving IgM and the cells of the immune system are mediated exclusively by complement receptors. In the whole organism, apart from IgM induced by immunization, natural antibodies (NA) are present and comprise in adults a considerable part of the circulating IgM. NA are polyreactive, germ-line-encoded, and emerge during embryogenesis without apparent antigenic stimuli. They demonstrate a broad spectrum of antibacterial activity and serve as first line of defense against microbial and viral infections. NA may be regarded as a transitional molecular form from invariable receptors of innate immunity to highly diverse receptors of adaptive immunity. By means of interaction with autoantigens, NA participate in maintenance of immunological tolerance and in clearance of dying cells. At the same time, NA may act as a pathogenic factor in atherosclerotic lesion formation and in development of tissue damage due to ischemia/reperfusion.

Key words

IgM Fc-receptors B-lymphocytes B1-lymphocytes natural antibodies innate immunity adaptive immunity 



amino acid residue


the 1st component of complement


antigen-binding antibody region


constant antibody region

Fcα/μR and FcμR

receptors binding Fc-regions of α- and/or μ-chains


follicular dendritic cells



IgA, IgG, IgE, and IgM

immunoglobulins of class A, G, E, and M, respectively


natural antibodies




polymeric immunoglobulins


polymeric immunoglobulin receptor




secretory component

sIgA and sIgM

secretory IgA and IgM, correspondingly


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© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Russian Research Center for Radiology and Surgical TechnologiesPesochny, St. PetersburgRussia

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