Background: Grass pollen immunotherapy for allergic rhinitis is a disease-modifying treatment that results in long-term clinical tolerance lasting years after treatment discontinuation. Active treatment is associated with generation of inhibitory grass pollen-specific IgG antibodies capable of blocking allergen-IgE interactions.
Objectives: We sought to investigate the involvement of IgG-associated inhibitory antibodies with long-term clinical tolerance after discontinuation of grass pollen immunotherapy.
Methods: We conducted a 4-year study in which patients who had moderate-to-severe allergic rhinitis underwent a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled discontinuation of subcutaneous grass pollen immunotherapy. All subjects received grass pollen immunotherapy injections for 2 years (n = 13), followed by a further 2 years of either active (n = 7) or placebo (n = 6) injections. Clinical outcomes included seasonal symptoms and use of rescue medication. Serum specimens were collected at baseline and after 2 and 4 years for quantification of allergen-specific IgG antibodies. Sera were also tested for IgG-dependent inhibitory bioactivity against IgE-allergen binding in cellular assays by using flow cytometry and confocal microscopy to detect binding of IgE-grass pollen allergen complexes to B cells.
Results: Clinical improvement was maintained after 2 years of discontinuation. Although immunotherapy-induced grass pollen-specific IgG1 and IgG4 levels decreased to near-preimmunotherapy levels during discontinuation, inhibitory bioactivity of allergen-specific IgG antibodies was maintained unchanged.
Conclusion: Grass pollen immunotherapy induces a subpopulation of allergen-specific IgG antibodies with potent inhibitory activity against IgE that persists after treatment discontinuation and that could account for long-term clinical tolerance.
Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.