Suppression of Allergen-Specific IgE in Offspring After Preconceptional Immunisation: Maternal, Paternal and Genetic Influences


Correspondence to: U. C. Nygaard, PhD, Division of Environmental Medicine, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, P.O.Box 4404 Nydalen, NO-0403 Oslo, Norway. E-mail:


Immunisation of female mice with the allergen ovalbumin (OVA) during pregnancy reduces the OVA-specific IgE response in adult offspring. To approach primary prevention strategies for allergy, we investigated to what extent genetic, paternal and maternal factors influence this suppressive effect on allergic sensitisation in offspring and investigated the possibility of pregestational immunisation. Maternal allergen immunisation reduced OVA-specific IgE levels in immunised offspring, even after maternal immunisation up to 8 weeks before conception without further allergen exposure. Immunisation of immunodeficient BALB/c severe combined immune deficiency (SCID) dams mated with wild type males did not lead to IgE suppression in offspring, indicating the importance of a functional maternal immune system. Immunisation of male mice before the relevant spermatogenesis did not cause antibody suppression in offspring. OVA-specific IgG1, presumably of maternal origin, was present in naïve offspring only from immunised dams and was associated with suppressed IgE responses after offspring immunisation. The IgE-suppressive effect of maternal immunisation was demonstrated in all three immunocompetent strains tested (NIH/OlaHsd, BALB/cA and C57BL/6 mice). In conclusion, suppression of allergen-specific IgE production in offspring could not be induced by paternal immunisation, and genetic factors were of minor importance. In contrast, we demonstrate the necessity of maternal factors, possibly allergen-specific IgG1, resulting from a functional adaptive immune response, for the IgE-suppressive effect in offspring. These maternal factors could be induced by immunisation of female mice even before conception.