Both, in humans and in mice, a major fraction of immunoglobulin E (IgE)-expressing B lymphocytes develops by sequential Ig class switching from IgM via IgG to IgE. This sequential class switch might have functional implications for the frequency and repertoire of IgE+ cells. Here we show that in mutant mice, in which sequential switching to IgE via IgG1 is blocked, the frequency of cells switching to IgE is not affected. Thus, sequential class switching to IgE merely reflects the simultaneous accessibility of two acceptor switch regions for switch recombination, induced by one cytokine, but with markedly distinct efficiency. Analysis of switch recombination on both IgH alleles of switched cells shows that the low frequency of switching to IgE is an inherent feature of the S epsilon switch region and its control elements.

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