Although it has been established that IL-4 enhances both IgG1 and IgE secretion in LPS-stimulated B cell cultures, these studies failed to determine whether IL-4 preferentially induces isotype switching or preferentially allows for the maturation of precommitted precursor cells. To distinguish between these possibilities, it is necessary to ascertain the effect of IL-4 on the isotypes secreted by individual precursor cells during clonal expansion. Therefore, clonal cultures of B cells stimulated with a Th2 helper cell line specific for rabbit Ig and rabbit anti-mouse IgM were established. The majority of B cells are capable of undergoing clonal expansion under these conditions. To vary the level of IL-4 present, either IL-4 or anti-IL-4 was added to cultures. In the presence of IL-4 there was an increase in the proportion of clones that secreted IgE and a decrease in the proportion of clones that secreted IgM. The addition of IL-4 to cultures also increased the amount of IgE secreted by individual clones. Thus, these experiments definitively prove that IL-4 causes specific heavy chain class switching to IgE in Th2-stimulated B cell cultures. In contrast, IL-4 does not affect the proportion of clones secreting IgG1, suggesting that other consequences of Th cell-B cell interactions play a role in the generation of an IgG1 response.

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