The immune response to honey bee venom in thirty-seven bee keepers' sera was studied by several methods. Specific IgE antibody levels studied by RAST were generally low, whereas specific IgG antibody levels studied by a Sepharose protein A technique were high. Crossed radioimmunoelectrophoresis was applied for a detailed analysis of the antibody specificities towards the different components of venom in seventeen of the bee keepers' sera. Significant amounts of IgG antibodies were found towards most bee-venom components. The highest IgG response was directed towards phospholipase A. Hyaluronidase, acid phosphatase and two uncharacterized antigens also showed distinct IgG binding. The IgG binding to melittin was low. The IgE binding to the bee venom components was low and primarily directed to the phospholipase. IgE binding to hyaluronidase and acid phosphatase occurred, but was also in very small amounts. One bee-keeper serum caused heavy radiostaining to melittin but the others did not show IgE binding to this component.
Thus a low IgE but a high IgG response was demonstrated in bee keepers. The major immunogen was phospholipase A. which is known to be the major allergen in bee venom. Generally, the strongest IgG responses were found to the components capable of inducing the strongest IgE responses.