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Immunity. 2013 Nov 14;39(5):963-75. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2013.10.005. Epub 2013 Oct 24.

A beneficial role for immunoglobulin E in host defense against honeybee venom.

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Department of Pathology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Allergies are widely considered to be misdirected type 2 immune responses, in which immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies are produced against any of a broad range of seemingly harmless antigens. However, components of insect venoms also can sensitize individuals to develop severe IgE-associated allergic reactions, including fatal anaphylaxis, upon subsequent venom exposure. We found that mice injected with amounts of honeybee venom similar to that which could be delivered in one or two stings developed a specific type 2 immune response that increased their resistance to subsequent challenge with potentially lethal amounts of the venom. Our data indicate that IgE antibodies and the high affinity IgE receptor, FcεRI, were essential for such acquired resistance to honeybee venom. The evidence that IgE-dependent immune responses against venom can enhance survival in mice supports the hypothesis that IgE, which also contributes to allergic disorders, has an important function in protection of the host against noxious substances.

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