Background IgE is the pivotal-specific effector molecule of allergic reactions yet it remains unclear whether the elevated production of IgE in atopic individuals is due to superantigen activation of B cell populations, increased antibody class switching to IgE or oligoclonal allergen-driven IgE responses.
Objectives To increase our understanding of the mechanisms driving IgE responses in allergic disease we examined immunoglobulin variable regions of IgE heavy chain transcripts from three patients with seasonal rhinitis due to grass pollen allergy.
Methods Variable domain of heavy chain-epsilon constant domain 1 cDNAs were amplified from peripheral blood using a two-step semi-nested PCR, cloned and sequenced.
Results The VH gene family usage in subject A was broadly based, but there were two clusters of sequences using genes VH 3-9 and 3-11 with unusually low levels of somatic mutations, 0–3%. Subject B repeatedly used VH 1-69 and subject C repeatedly used VH 1-02, 1-46 and 5a genes. Most clones were highly mutated being only 86–95% homologous to their germline VH gene counterparts and somatic mutations were more abundant at the complementarity determining rather than framework regions. Multiple sequence alignment revealed both repeated use of particular VH genes as well as clonal relatedness among clusters of IgE transcripts.
Conclusion In contrast to previous studies we observed no preferred VH gene common to IgE transcripts of the three subjects allergic to grass pollen. Moreover, most of the VH gene characteristics of the IgE transcripts were consistent with oligoclonal antigen-driven IgE responses.
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