Certain aspects of the phenomenon of IgE class-restricted tolerance induced in mice by neonatal treatment with monoclonal IgE, either in soluble form or coupled to syngeneic spleen cells, were examined. The present studies document that this tolerance results from exposure to IgE molecules, irrespective of their antigen specificity, and the resulting effects are polyclonal in nature since IgE responses directed against antigenic determinants unrelated to the tolerance-inducing IgE molecules are affected. Moreover, such findings indicate that the molecular subregion(s) responsible for inducing IgE class-restricted tolerance resides in the epsilon heavy chain constant region domain(s) of IgE. When soluble IgE is employed, tolerance induction results from neonatal treatment with doses as low as 2.5 micrograms per injection per mouse; cell-bound IgE is considerably more potent, in terms of total dose required, since tolerance results from treatment with as few as 1 X 10(6) cells per injection (per mouse), equivalent to an absolute quantity of 0.2 ng of IgE per injection. This long-term class-specific tolerance appears to be a unique feature of the IgE antibody system, since treatment of mice with monoclonal antibodies of the IgA, IgG1, or IgG2b isotypes, either in soluble or cell-bound form, does not perturb antibody responses of their corresponding isotypes or in the IgE class. By analyzing the lymphoid cells of IgE-tolerant mice after they reached adulthood, the following observations were made: (a) lymphoid cells from such tolerant mice fail to develop FcR epsilon + cells upon in vitro stimulation with IgE, as is characteristically observed with lymphoid cells from nontolerant mice; and (b) mice rendered tolerant by neonatal treatment with soluble IgE possess IgE class-restricted suppressor T cells, demonstrable in adoptive transfer experiments, whereas no such suppressor cells are evident in mice in which cell-bound IgE was used for neonatal treatment. The latter observations could mean that two different mechanisms underlie the IgE class-restricted tolerance, or both mechanisms operate coordinately to varying degrees depending upon which regimen is used for tolerance induction, as discussed herein.

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