Background: Allergen immunotherapy is a widely accepted treatment for IgE-mediated allergies. The evaluation of immunotherapy-induced IgG4 antibodies based on allergen extract is questionable because the amount of allergen-extract-specific IgG4 to individual disease-eliciting allergens cannot be determined using crude allergen extracts. In this study, we examined the specific IgE and IgG4 serum binding profiles to individual Phleum pratense allergens in grass-pollen-sensitive patients who had received grass-pollen-specific immunotherapy (SIT).
Methods: The study included 33 patients from North-West Italy. All suffered from seasonal rhinoconjunctivitis and/or asthma. A modified "cluster" regimen of injections of a standardized aluminium-adsorbed P.pratense extract, with once-weekly visits and 10 injections for 5 weeks followed by 3 weeks of maintenance injections was instituted. Patients' sera were analyzed for specific IgE and IgG4 reactivity to individual P. pratense allergens (recombinant Phl p 1, Phl p 2, Phl p 5, Phl p 6, Phl p 7, Phl p 11, Phl p12 and native Phl p 4) and natural P. pratense extract using the Pharmacia CAP system.
Results: IgE reactivities to new allergen components were not detected by CAP in treated patients after 15 weeks and a cumulative dose of approximately 65 microg of the major allergen Phl p 5. Patients lacking specific IgE reactivity towards individual allergens at the start of SIT did not produce significant levels of specific serum IgG4 to serum IgE-negative allergens. On the other hand, an increase in specific IgG4 only to allergens to which patients were previously sensitized was observed. Significant increases in specific IgG4 levels to rPhl p 1 (p < 0.05), 2 (p < (0.01), 5 (p < 0.0001), 6 (p < 0.0001), 7 (p < 0.05), 11 (p < 0.05) and nPhl p 4 (p < 0.01) were observed after P. pratense extract immunotherapy. No significant rPhl p 12-specific IgG4 antibody increase was documented after treatment.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that Phl p 12 was underrepresented in the extract used, as indicated by the low specific IgG4 response induced by this grass-pollen-specific vaccine. Thus, the simple detection of specific serum IgG4 antibodies a few weeks after the start of SIT could represent a valuable tool to estimate the presence of relevant allergens in a given immunotherapeutic allergen extract.
Copyright 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel