Background: As the incidence of allergy to different compounds increases in society, the need to understand and characterize specific IgE responses becomes obvious. Different cell culture systems have been evaluated for their ability to support such IgE secretion.
Methods: One system employed human peripheral lymphocytes (PBL) from normal donors stimulated with anti-CD3 activated T cells with or without the presence of allergens like benzylpenicillin (BP) and Phlenum pratense (PP). Secretion of IgE was analyzed in ELISA and compared to the IgG response to the nonallergenic antigen tetanus toxoid (TT). Another system employed stimulation of T and B cells with a heterotope, consisting of a T helper cell epitope derived from TT, and a B cell allergen epitope derived from BP. The specific IgE secretion was compared, using lymphocytes from normal as well as BP-allergic donors.
Results: Anti-CD3 stimulated T cells supported BP-specific IgE secretion in six of 11 normal donors. This response was inhibited in four donors and enhanced in two donors by the addition of the BP-allergen to the culture. In contrast, addition of the protein allergen (PP) or antigen (TT) to the same culture system inhibited both IgE and IgG synthesis in all experiments. Cells from the majority (10/16) of the BP-allergic donors failed to produce BP-specific IgE in vitro, when cultured in the presence of allergen.
Conclusions: An allergen specific immune response is readily generated in vitro. The differential response against benzylpenicillin between different donor categories most probably reflects the level of pre-exposure to this allergen in vivo.