Nomenclature of monoclonal antibodies

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List of stems for
monoclonal antibody nomenclature[1] [2] [3]
Prefix Target substem Source substem Stem
old new meaning meaning
variable -anibi- angiogenesis (inhibitor) -a- rat -mab
-ba(c)- -b(a)- bacterium -e- hamster
-ci(r)- -c(i)- circulatory system -i- primate
-fung- -f(u)- fungus -o- mouse
-gr(o)- -gr(o)- growth factor -u- human
-ki(n)- -k(i)- interleukin -xi- chimeric (human/foreign)
-les- inflammatory lesions -zu- humanized
-li(m)- -l(i)- immune system -vet- veterinary
-mul- musculoskeletal system -xizu-* chimeric/humanized hybrid
-ne(u)(r)- -n(e)-* nervous system -axo- rat/mouse hybrid
(see trifunctional antibody)
-os- -s(o)- bone
-toxa- -tox(a)- toxin
-co(l)- -t(u)- colonic tumor
-go(t)- testicular tumor
-go(v)- ovarian tumor
-ma(r)- mammary tumor
-me(l)- melanoma
-pr(o)- prostate tumor
-tu(m)- miscellaneous tumor
-vi(r)- -v(i)- virus
* under discussion as of December 2009

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

The nomenclature of monoclonal antibodies is a naming scheme for assigning generic, or nonproprietary, names to a group of medicines called monoclonal antibodies. This scheme is used for both the World Health Organization’s International Nonproprietary Names and the United States Adopted Names.[4][1] In general, suffixes are used to identify a class of medicines; all monoclonal antibody pharmaceuticals end with the suffix -mab. However, different substems (infixes) are used depending on the structure and function of the medicine.


Substem for origin/source

The substem preceding the -mab suffix denotes the animal origin of the antibodies.[1] Although the original monoclonal antibodies were produced in mice (infix, -o-), these antibodies are recognized as foreign by human immune systems and may be rapidly cleared, provoke an allergic reaction, or both. Therefore, parts of the antibody may be replaced with human sequences. If the constant region is replaced with the human form, it is termed chimeric and the infix used is -xi-. Part of the variable regions may also be substituted, in which case it is termed humanized and the infix used is -zu-. Antibodies originating in humans use -u-.

Substem for target

The substem preceding the source of the antibodies refers to medicine’s target. Most of these consist of a consonant, vowel, then another consonant. For ease of pronunciation and to avoid awkwardness, the final consonant is dropped if the following infix begins with a consonant (such as -zu- or -xi-). Examples of these include -ci(r)- for the circulatory system and -tu(m)- for miscellaneous tumors (cancers).[1]

Prefix and second word

Finally, the prefix carries no special meaning and should be unique for each medicine. A second word may be added if there is another substance attached or linked.


Abciximab is a commonly used medication to prevent platelets from clumping together. It can be broken down into ab- + -ci(r)- + -xi- + -mab. Therefore, it is a chimeric monoclonal antibody used on the cardiovascular system.

Another example is the breast cancer medication trastuzumab, which can be broken down into tras- + -tu(m)- + -zu- + -mab. Therefore, it is a humanized monoclonal antibody used against a tumor.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "AMA (USAN) Monoclonal antibodies". United States Adopted Names. 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2007-08-15.
  2. "General policies for monoclonal antibodies" (PDF). World Health Organization. 2009-12-18. Retrieved 2010-06-08.
  3. "The use of stems in the selection of International Nonproprietary Names (INN) for pharmaceutical substances" (PDF). World Health Organization. 2009. pp. 107–109, 168–169. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
  4. "Guidelines on the Use of International Nonproprietary Names (INNs) for Pharmaceutical Substances" (PDF). 1997. pp. 27–28. Retrieved 2007-08-15.

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