Increased IgG4 responses to multiple food and animal antigens indicate a polyclonal expansion and differentiation of pre-existing B cells in IgG4-related disease

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Abstract

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.

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