Increased IgG4 responses to multiple food and animal antigens indicate a polyclonal expansion and differentiation of pre-existing B cells in IgG4-related disease.
Culver EL., Vermeulen E., Makuch M., van Leeuwen A., Sadler R., Cargill T., Klenerman P., Aalberse RC., van Ham SM., Barnes E., Rispens T.
BACKGROUND: IgG4-related disease (IgG4-RD) is a systemic fibroinflammatory condition, characterised by an elevated serum IgG4 concentration and abundant IgG4-positive plasma cells in the involved organs. An important question is whether the elevated IgG4 response is causal or a reflection of immune-regulatory mechanisms of the disease. OBJECTIVES: To investigate if the IgG4 response in IgG4-RD represents a generalised polyclonal amplification by examining the response to common environmental antigens. METHODS: Serum from 24 patients with IgG4-RD (14 treatment-naive, 10 treatment-experienced), 9 patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis and an elevated serum IgG4 (PSC-high IgG4), and 18 healthy controls were tested against egg white and yolk, milk, banana, cat, peanut, rice and wheat antigens by radioimmunoassay. RESULTS: We demonstrated an elevated polyclonal IgG4 response to multiple antigens in patients with IgG4-RD and in PSC-high IgG4, compared with healthy controls. There was a strong correlation between serum IgG4 and antigen-specific responses. Responses to antigens were higher in treatment-naive compared with treatment-experienced patients with IgG4-RD. Serum electrophoresis and immunofixation demonstrated polyclonality. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to show enhanced levels of polyclonal IgG4 to multiple antigens in IgG4-RD. This supports that elevated IgG4 levels reflect an aberrant immunological regulation of the overall IgG4 response, but does not exclude that causality of disease could be antigen-driven.