A proportion of patients with atopic dermatitis have elevated serum levels of IgG4. In order to investigate further this abnormality of IgG subclass production, atopic patients were immunized with the protein antigen keyhole limpet haemocyanin (KLH), and IgG subclass responses following primary and secondary immunization were analysed. In the primary response, titres of IgG1, 2 and 3 antibodies were lower in the atopic patients than in the controls. In contrast, titres of IgG4 were much higher for the patient group. In both patients and controls, the kinetics of IgG4 antibody production following the initial immunization with KLH showed a slow rise reaching a peak at 30 weeks. This time course indicated that the high IgG4 response was unlikely to be due to previous exposure of the patients to a cross-reacting antigen. A higher proportion of IgG4 was also seen in the atopic patients following secondary immunization; indeed, IgG4 was the major subclass in the secondary response in the patient group. In the controls, but not in the patients, titres of IgG4 anti-KLH correlated with total serum levels of IgG4, and some of the highest IgG4 antibody responses were detected in atopic patients whose serum IgG4 concentration was in the normal range. The results suggest that raised serum levels of IgG4 in atopy may reflect abnormal isotype regulation in response to protein antigens.