Patients with allergic diseases produce an excess of allergen-specific IgE, the specific effector molecule that triggers allergic reactions. The provocation for this excess IgE production is still uncertain. Current ideas include oligoclonal expansion of allergen-specific B cells emanating from germinal centres, activation by superantigen of a subset of B cells, or polyclonal B cells class switching to IgE due to an IL-4 predominance. Additionally, genetic elements contribute to a propensity for increased allergen-specific IgE production. The procedure of RT-PCR allows for amplification of infrequent IgE mRNA transcripts from B cells of atopic individuals, and so facilitates examination of expressed Ig cDNA sequences. Better knowledge of the molecular characteristics of IgE produced by patients with allergic diseases would elucidate the immunogenetic basis for elevated allergen-specific IgE levels. The 'immunogenetic footprint' of IgE transcripts may elucidate the origin and activation of IgE-producing B cells in allergic disease. Here we review studies of the immunogenetic features of IgE in allergic diseases, highlighting the major advances and the experimental limitations.