We have analyzed in detail the precise requirements for the induction of human IgE synthesis using several experimental approaches with purified B cells and well-characterized alloantigen-specific CD4+ T cell clones expressing different profiles of lymphokine secretion. Using these clones under cognate conditions in which the B cells expressed alloantigens recognized by the cloned T cells, we have confirmed that IL-4 is required for the induction of IgE synthesis, but we have clearly demonstrated that IL-4 by itself is not sufficient. With several cloned CD4+ T cell lines, including an IL-4-producing clone that could not induce IgE synthesis, and cloned T cells pretreated with cyclosporin A to inhibit lymphokine synthesis, we showed that Th cell-B cell interactions are necessary for IgE synthesis, and that low molecular weight B cell growth factor (LMW-BCGF) and IL-4, in combination, are lymphokines of major importance in the induction of IgE synthesis. Together our results indicate that optimal induction of an IgE-specific response requires the exposure of B cells to a particular complex of signals that include (a) a signal(s) involving Th-B cell interaction that primes B cells to receive additional signals from soluble lymphokines, (b) a specific B cell proliferative signal provided by LMW-BCGF, and (c) a specific B cell differentiation signal provided by IL-4.

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