AIMS: To investigate whether changes in carbohydrate structure of IgG are related to malignancy and stage of disease in myeloma and monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance (MGUS). METHODS: 61 patients were studied at diagnosis: 14 with MGUS, nine with stage I multiple myeloma, 11 with stage II, 21 with stage III, and five with solitary plasmacytoma. IgG was extracted from serum by protein G affinity chromatography. Oligosaccharides were cleaved from the protein backbone enzymatically by N-glycosidase F. Oligosaccharide analysis was performed by high pressure anion exchange chromatography with pulsed electrochemical detection (HPAE-PED). RESULTS: Up to 15 oligosaccharide peaks were identified in three major fractions: neutral, monosialylated, and disialylated. Patients with myeloma showed an increase in the proportion of sialylated oligosaccharides in comparison with patients with MGUS. The ratio of neutral to sialylated oligosaccharides (N:S) was reduced at all stages of myeloma compared with MGUS: MGUS, 11.35; myeloma stage I, 7.6 (p = 0.047); stage II, 5.20 (p = 0.035); stage III, 3.60 (p = 0.0002); plasmacytoma, 7.5 (p = 0.046). The N:S ratio was independent of paraprotein concentration (r = 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: The ratio of neutral to sialylated oligosaccharides may act as a new marker of malignancy in IgG paraproteinaemia and warrants further investigation.