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J Immunol. 1992 May 1;148(9):2731-7.

Control of allergic reactivity in human filariasis. Predominant localization of blocking antibody to the IgG4 subclass.

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  • 1Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Patients with chronic helminth infections, despite having abundant basophils and mast cells specifically sensitized with antiparasite IgE and often exposed repeatedly to parasite Ag, rarely manifest allergic symptoms. This control of clinical allergic reactivity likely results from Ag-specific IgG "blocking antibodies" shown previously to be abundant in the sera of such patients. In the present study we used two approaches to determine in which of the four IgG subclasses this blocking activity was localized. First, specific antifilarial antibodies of each of the four IgG subclasses were quantified in the sera of 28 patients with Bancroftian filariasis and correlated with the levels of blocking activity in these sera (determined by histamine release assays). A significant correlation with blocking activity was seen only for antibodies of the IgG4 subclass, and, indeed, the correlation was especially strong in the group of totally asymptomatic patients (but with microfilariae circulating in the blood) in whom blocking antibody levels were highest. Interestingly, however, if the analysis excluded these asymptomatic microfilaremic patients and focused instead on those with lymphatic inflammatory pathology (who had relatively low levels of both serum blocking activity and specific IgG4 antibodies), then the small amount of blocking activity found in these sera correlated only with the levels of IgG1 subclass antibodies. The second approach utilized selective depletion of IgG4 (by anti-IgG4 affinity columns) from the sera of three microfilaremic patients with high levels of blocking activity and demonstrated clearly that removal of IgG4 abolished the majority of the blocking activity in these sera (53, 78, and 81%). These two sets of findings demonstrate a predominant role for specific IgG4 antibodies in blocking IgE-mediated allergic responses to the parasite Ag in vitro, but they also indicate that in some situations IgG1 antibodies can block such reactions. Furthermore, the correlation demonstrated between patients' clinical presentations and the levels of both their specific IgG4 antibodies and serum blocking activity suggests that these antibodies play a similar role in vivo as well.

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