Levels of serum IgA, IgG, and IgG subclass antibodies to a variety of dietary antigens were determined by enzyme linked immunosorbent assays in 14 adults with untreated coeliac disease and in 10 disease controls selected because of raised total IgG activities. The untreated coeliacs showed somewhat higher total IgG activity (p approximately 0.05) and significantly raised IgA and IgG1 + IgG3 activities to gliadin but reduced IgG4 activity (p less than 0.02) compared with the controls. High IgA and IgG1 + IgG3 activities were positively correlated (r = 0.67, p less than 0.01), and so were IgG and IgG4 activities (r = 0.64, p less than 0.02). Conversely, a high IgG2 response to gliadin appeared related to a low IgA response (r = 0.55, p less than 0.05). The IgG2 response was most prominent to oat flour antigens, followed by IgG1; and the main response to soy antigens resided in IgG1, followed by IgG2 in both disease groups. There was no difference in antibody activities to oat and soy between the two groups, and raised activity to bovine serum albumin was seldom encountered. The IgA activity to alpha-lactalbumin and ovalbumin tended to be increased in the coeliacs compared with the controls. The IgG4 subclass dominated the IgG response to beta-lactoglobulin and ovalbumin and was often raised to alpha-lactalbumin, especially in the disease controls. The IgG subclass pattern to casein parallelled that to gliadin with dominance of the IgG1- and IgG3-subclass activities, especially in the coeliacs. The phlogistic potential of a response in these two subclasses might be relevant to the pathogenesis of coeliac disease and could contribute to a raised IgA gliadin response by increasing mucosal permeability. IgA activity seemed to be highest against antigens usually involved in IgE mediated food allergy.
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