Antigens and infectious agents that stimulate interferon alpha(IFN-alpha) production in mice induce antibody responses that are predominantly of the immunoglobulin (Ig)G2a isotype and contain little or no IgE. This suggested the possibility that IFN-alpha might have a role in directing Ig isotype selection. Consistent with this possibility, we have found that injection of mice with recombinant mouse IFN-alpha suppresses IgE secretion, enhances IgG2a secretion, and has no independent effect on IgG1 secretion in mice stimulated with a foreign anti-IgD antibody. Injection of mice with polyinosinic acid.polycytidylic acid (poly I.C), an inducer of macrophage IFN-alpha production, also suppresses the anti-IgD antibody-induced IgE response and stimulates the IgG2a response; these effects are blocked by a sheep antibody that neutralizes mouse IFN-alpha/beta. Both recombinant IFN-alpha and poly I.C have maximum IgE suppressive and IgG2a stimulatory effects when injected early in the anti-IgD antibody-induced immune response. Addition of IFN-alpha to mouse B cells cultured with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) + interleukin 4 (IL-4) suppresses both IgG1 and IgE production, but much less potently than IFN-gamma. IFN-alpha suppresses anti-IgD antibody-induced increases in the level of splenic IL-4 mRNA, but enhances the anti-IgD antibody-induced increase in the splenic level of IFN-gamma mRNA. These results are consistent with the effect of IFN-alpha on Ig isotype expression in mice, as IL-4 stimulates IgE and suppresses IgG2a secretion while IFN-gamma exerts opposite effects. These observations suggest that antigen presenting cells, by secreting IFN-alpha early in the course of an immune response, can influence the nature of that response both through direct effects on B cells and by influencing the differentiation of T cells.

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