IL-4 has been shown to induce B lymphocytes to switch from the expression of membrane IgM to the expression of membrane IgE and to be required for the generation of primary polyclonal and secondary Ag-specific IgE responses in mice. To further define the role of IL-4 in the generation of memory IgE responses, we investigated the ability of a combination of anti-IL-4 and anti-IL-4R mAb to block the generation of secondary IgE responses induced by: 1) a second infection with the nematode parasites Nippostrongylus brasiliensis or Heligmosomoides polygyrus; or 2) injection of anti-IgD antibody-primed mice with anti-IgE antibody. The latter stimulus was designed to induce intrinsic membrane IgE-expressing B cells to differentiate into IgE-secreting cells. Although the IgE responses induced by a second nematode infection were completely inhibited by the combination of anti-IL-4 and anti-IL-4R mAb, anti-IgE antibody-induced IgE responses in anti-IgD primed mice were not inhibited by these antibodies to a large degree. Additional experiments demonstrated that the anti-IgE antibody-induced memory IgE response was dependent on CD4+ T cells but did not involve the low affinity B cell Fc epsilon RII. Taken together, these observations provide evidence that IL-4 is required for virgin B lymphocytes to develop into IgE-expressing cells, but is not required for B cells that express intrinsic membrane IgE to differentiate into IgE-secreting cells in a T-dependent response. Furthermore, these data suggest that secondary IgE responses in the parasite models that we have studied develop from B cells that had not previously switched to the expression of IgE.

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