Atopic individuals produce high levels of IgE in response to environmental allergens, whereas normal individuals generally synthesize other Ig isotypes, such as IgM and IgG, and only small amounts of IgE. Regulation of IgE synthesis depends on the propensity of an individual to mount a TH2 response to allergens because TH2 cell-derived cytokines stimulate heavy chain isotype switching to the IgE class in B cells. This propensity toward TH2 responses against particular antigens may be influenced by a variety of factors, including inherited genes, the nature of the antigens, and the history of antigen exposure.
IgE antibody is responsible for sensitizing mast cells and provides recognition of antigen for immediate hyper-sensitivity reactions. IgE is the antibody isotype that contains the e heavy chain (see Chapter 5), and of all the Ig isotypes, IgE is the most efficient at binding to Fc receptors on mast cells and activating these cells.
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