MHC haplotypes were determined for 52 patients with ragweed pollen allergy, with and without asthma, and 27 non-atopic controls. Total IgE levels were unimodally distributed in all study groups and were higher in atopic patients in general compared with non-atopics. There was no difference in total IgE levels in patients with rhinitis only compared with those with rhinitis and asthma. IgE anti-Amb a V was detected (after subtraction of values representing the means + 2 SD of the non-atopics) in 9 of 20 asthmatics but only 3 of 32 patients with only rhinitis and was thus associated with asthma. Mean anti-Amb a V was much higher in the antibody-positive asthmatics (1710 U/ml) than in the positive patients with rhinitis only (469 U/ml). The extended MHC haplotype [HLA-B7, SC31, DR2] and its possible DR-containing fragment (SC31, DR2), were found almost exclusively among the patients with IgE anti-Amb a V and were significantly elevated in patients with asthma. DR2 in general, but not DR2 without SC31, was significantly increased in frequency in patients with anti-Amb a V. In contrast, the extended haplotype [HLA-B8, SC01, DR3] and DR3 in general were increased among patients with rhinitis only and patients without IgE anti-Amb a V compared with general controls. Thus, [HLA-B8, SC01, DR3] and DR3 appear to be "protective" for the production of this antibody and the occurrence of asthma. The findings are consistent with an MHC-linked gene or genes on [HLA-B7, SC31, DR2] (but not necessarily DR2, Dw2, or DQw6 in general) controlling the IgE immune response to Amb a V and associated with asthma in ragweed pollen-sensitive subjects. In patients with rhinitis alone and generally undetectable levels of IgE anti-Amb a V, the increase in [HLA-B8, SC01, DR3] and DR3 may mark a response to an as yet unidentified Ag associated with ragweed allergy and rhinitis only.

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