ADCC, Antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity

A mechanism of cell-mediated immune defense

Antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) is a mechanism of cell-mediated immune defense whereby an effector cell of the immune system actively destroys a target cell, whose membrane-surface antigens have been bound by specific antibodies.

ADCC is part of the adaptive immune response due to its dependence on a prior antibody response. It is independent of the immune complement system that also destroy targets but does not require any other cell to do so.

The typical ADCC involves activation of an effector cell which classically is known to be natural killer (NK) cells that interact with immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies. Other agents such as macrophages, neutrophils and eosinophils can also mediate ADCC.

A cooperative response between innate and adaptive immunity

Antibody dependent cell mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) is a cooperative response involving:

  • binding of antibodies produced by B-cells to antigens
  • recognition of the constant fragment (Fc) by effector cells
  • release of damaging substances by effector cells
  • destruction of the pathogenic organism

ADCC is an interaction between innate and adaptive immunity that is important because it allows innate immune effectors to recognize pathogens that do not express pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), hide these patterns from innate immune detection or otherwise debase innate immune function.


Increasing evidence suggests that antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) plays a significant role in antibody-mediated protection and control of viral infection and several laboratory methods exist for determining the efficacy of antibodies or effector cells in eliciting ADCC.

Usually, a target cell line expressing a certain surface-exposed antigen is incubated with antibody specific for that antigen. Over the course of a few hours a complex form between the antibody, target cell, and effector cell which leads to lysis of the cell membrane of the target.

iLite® ADCC Portfolio

The iLite ADCC product portfolio is based on a reporter gene system and offers a convenient and powerful way of measuring the efficacy of antibodies to elicit ADCC in vitro.

By analyzing the ADCC activity induced by different drugs or drug candidates, a measure of both drug potency and unwanted side effects can be provided.

Common application of iLite® ADCC are determination of mechanism of action for new drug candidates, potency testing for therapeutic antibodies, evaluation of glycosylated antibodies and to demonstrate biosimilarity.

Read more about ADCC Applications

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