Background: In a recent genome wide scan, a functional promoter variant (rs2251746) in the gene encoding the alpha chain of the high affinity receptor for immunoglobulin E (IgE) (FCER1A) was identified as major determinant of serum IgE levels.
Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the role of rs2251746 on total IgE levels measured at different stages of life from birth (cord blood) up to the age of 6 and to evaluate its interaction with the environmental influences in two German birth cohorts.
Method: Data from two German birth cohorts were analysed (n = 1043 for the LISA cohort and n = 1842 for the GINI cohort). In the studies, total serum IgE was measured from cord blood, and blood samples taken at the age of 2/3 and 6 years. In a subgroup of the LISA study, house dust samples were collected at age of 3 months and the amount of endotoxin was determined. Random effect models were used to analyse the longitudinal health outcomes.
Results: In the two cohorts, the heterozygote and the rare homozygote of rs2251746 was consistently associated with lower total IgE levels from birth up to the age of 6 years with an allele-dose effect (P < 0.02 for blood samples taken at each time point in both cohorts). No interaction between the two FCER1A encoding gene and environmental exposures including endotoxin, worm infestation and day care centre attendance during early childhood were observed.
Conclusion: Common variants in FCER1A strongly influence basal IgE production independently from environmental stimuli. These effects can be observed already in cord blood pointing to altered gene expression in foetus.