A major target for warm immunoglobulin G autoantibodies: the third external loop of Band 3


Address reprint requests to: Daniel Janvier, MD, Etablissement Français du Sang, Hôpital St-Louis, 1, Avenue C. Vellefaux, 75010 Paris, France; e-mail: danieljanvier@yahoo.fr.



Rh proteins and the Wrb antigen, which results from an interaction between Band 3 and glycophorin A, are the most common targets for warm immunoglobulin (Ig)G autoantibodies. Apart from autoanti-Dib, a scarce specificity, IgG warm autoantibodies specific for Band 3 have never been characterized by serologic methods.

Study Design and Methods

Blood samples from 120 patients with autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) and IgG-coated red blood cells (RBCs) were studied by serologic methods. Some autoantibodies were investigated by immunochemical methods.


Autoantibodies against the third external loop of Band 3 have a distinctive pattern of reactivity in that they fail to react after RBC treatment with α-chymotrypsin and pronase, whereas papain, ficin, and trypsin have no effect. Eleven (9%) patients had pure anti-Band 3 autoantibodies. Autoanti-Band 3 antibodies were associated with other specificities in 66 (55%) patients. Immunoprecipitation and rare RBCs from a Wu+ homozygote, known to have an unusual pattern of reactivity after protease treatment, were used to confirm the Band 3 specificity. Treatment with sodium hypochlorite, believed to oxidize the Met residue at Position 559 in the third loop, showed that these autoantibodies were heterogeneous. Most antibodies reacted optimally at 37°C, but two patients had incomplete cold IgG autoantibodies. Unlike autoantibodies to Rh proteins, warm autoanti-Band 3 activate complement and are almost totally bound to autologous RBCs.


We describe the first cases of warm IgG autoantibodies specific for the third loop of Band 3. This external loop also appears as a major target in patients with warm antibody AIHA.