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J Investig Med. 1997 Feb;45(2):57-68.

Genetic regulation of the capacity to make immunoglobulin G to pneumococcal capsular polysaccharides.

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Medical Service (Infectious Disease Section), Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center, TX 77030, USA.



Genetic regulation of immunoglobulin G(IgG) responses to pneumococcal capsular polysaccharides (PPS), has been demonstrated in mice but not in humans. Earlier studies from this laboratory showed that healthy adults have a varying capacity to generate IgG antibody to PPS; this study sought to determine whether this capacity is genetically controlled.


A 23-valent pneumococcal vaccine was administered to 72 unrelated White adults, 4 nuclear families, and 61 members of an extended Ashkenazic Jewish family. Selected individuals later received one or more doses of the vaccine and/or a single dose of protein-conjugated PPS. Four to six weeks after each vaccination, IgG to PPS was measured by ELISA. Immunoglobulin allotypes and HLA types were determined by standard techniques.


After vaccination, 53% of the 72 unrelated White adults had measurable levels of IgG antibody to all of 10 PPS studied (high-level responders), 36% had IgG to 6-9 PPS, and 11% had IgG to < or = 5 of 10 PPS (low-level responders). Persons who did not make IgG to an individual PPS also failed to make IgM or IgA to that antigen. Low-level responders had reduced mean IgG levels to PPS to which they did make IgG; nevertheless, their total serum concentrations of IgG, IgG2, IgA, and IgM were normal, and each made IgG2 to at least one PPS, all indicating that a global defect in Ig production was not responsible. The responder status of offspring was highly associated with that of their parents. Segregation analysis of 61 Ashkenazic family members revealed that the capacity to generate anti-PPS IgG was inherited in a mixed, codominant fashion. Repeated vaccination or administration of protein-conjugated PPS did not elicit measurable IgG in nonresponders. The HLA type was not associated with antibody responses. An association between IgG level and Gm(23)+ allotype was observed in unrelated Whites but not in Ashkenazic Jews.


Thus, humans exhibit a variable capacity to respond to PPS. This response is hereditable in a mixed, codominant fashion. The absence of IgG to a PPS, even after antigen is presented in a protein-conjugate form, may reflect a genetically mediated failure to recognize polysaccharide antigens. Since persons who respond to fewer PPS also have lower levels of IgG to PPS to which they do respond, genetically determined deficiencies in events that involve proliferation of committed B lymphocytes may also play a role.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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