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Clin Exp Allergy. 2017 May;47(5):693-703. doi: 10.1111/cea.12835. Epub 2016 Nov 28.

IgE and allergen-specific immunotherapy-induced IgG4 recognize similar epitopes of Bet v 1, the major allergen of birch pollen.

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Division of Allergology, Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, Langen, Germany.
Department of Biopolymers, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany.
Department of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research and Christian Doppler Laboratory for Immunomodulation, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Philipps University Marburg, Marburg, Germany.



Allergen-specific immunotherapy (AIT) with birch pollen generates Bet v 1-specific immunoglobulin (Ig)G4 which blocks IgE-mediated hypersensitivity mechanisms. Whether IgG4 specific for Bet v 1a competes with IgE for identical epitopes or whether novel epitope specificities of IgG4 antibodies are developed is under debate.


We sought to analyze the epitope specificities of IgE and IgG4 antibodies from sera of patients who received AIT.


15 sera of patients (13/15 received AIT) with Bet v 1a-specific IgE and IgG4 were analyzed. The structural arrangements of recombinant (r)Bet v 1a and rBet v 1a_11x , modified in five potential epitopes, were analyzed by circular dichroism and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. IgE binding to Bet v 1 was assessed by ELISA and mediator release assays. Competitive binding of monoclonal antibodies specific for Bet v 1a and serum IgE/IgG4 to rBet v 1a and serum antibody binding to a non-allergenic Bet v 1-type model protein presenting an individual epitope for IgE was analyzed in ELISA and western blot.


rBet v 1a_11x had a Bet v 1a - similar secondary and tertiary structure. Monomeric dispersion of rBet v 1a_11x was concentration and buffer-dependent. Up to 1500-fold increase in the EC50 for IgE-mediated mediator release induced by rBet v 1a_11x was determined. The reduction of IgE and IgG4 binding to rBet v 1a_11x was comparable in 67% (10/15) of sera. Bet v 1a-specific monoclonal antibodies inhibited binding of serum IgE and IgG4 to 66.1% and 64.9%, respectively. Serum IgE and IgG4 bound specifically to an individual epitope presented by our model protein in 33% (5/15) of sera.


Patients receiving AIT develop Bet v 1a-specific IgG4 which competes with IgE for partly identical or largely overlapping epitopes. The similarities of epitopes for IgE and IgG4 might stimulate the development of epitope-specific diagnostics and therapeutics.


Bet v 1; IgE; IgG4; epitope; immunotherapy

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