In this study we have examined the relationship between the in vitro basophil histamine-releasing activity of human IgG anti-IgE, isolated as euglobulin fractions from sera of asthmatic patients, and its IgG1/IgG4 subclass distribution. In particular, we have investigated whether IgG anti-IgE modulates allergen-induced basophil activation. The study has revealed that only a small proportion of IgG anti-IgE samples triggered histamine release from basophils of an asthmatic individual (4/21; 19%), a hay fever sufferer (4/10; 40%) and a healthy person (7/21; 33%). The basophil histamine-releasing activity of IgG anti-IgE did not seem to be determined by the IgG1/IgG4 subclass composition of the IgG anti-IgE preparation used. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that autoanti-IgE antibodies modulate allergen-induced basophil histamine release. The three modulatory effects exerted by IgG anti-IgE antibodies on allergen-triggered basophil activation (i.e. additive, synergistic and blocking) were not dependent on the subclass nature of IgG anti-IgE or the use of histamine-releasing anti-IgE preparations. Our data suggest that IgG anti-IgE antibodies in asthma patients may consist of two functionally distinct subpopulations: those which up-regulate (pro-allergic) and those which down-regulate (anti-allergic) the allergic release of mediators from mast cells and basophils.