Prolonged exposure to antigens may result in high IgG4 antibody titres as was shown in a previous paper (Aalberse et al., 1983b). In novice bee keepers, a shift in the IgG1/IgG4 ratio of the response against phospholipase-A (PLA; a major component of bee venom) occurred. This resulted in an IgG4-dominated response after approximately 2 years of bee-keeping experience. Subject of the present study was the influence of relatively high concentrations of IgG4 antibodies on the biological activity of immune complexes. In the PLA antigen model, it was demonstrated that IgG4-containing immune complexes do not activate complement and that IgG4 antibodies effectively inhibit immune precipitation and complement activation by IgG1 antibodies. Evidence is provided that IgG4 antibodies inhibit binding of C1q to IgG1 in mixed, IgG1- and IgG4-containing complexes. It is proposed that IgG4 antibodies protect against the biological effects of the complement-fixing IgG subclasses. For this reason, determination of the total IgG response or just determination of antibody activity in the complement-fixing isotypes is insufficient in immune-complex diseases. The modulating effect of the non-complement-fixing isotypes should be taken into account to predict the biological activity of the immune complexes.