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The genetic control of the total IgE, the immunoglobulins E involved in allergy, remains still unclear. Although high IgE levels were found to be determined by a recessive major gene in several studies, other modes of inheritance were also reported. Moreover, at least two different genetic mechanisms controlling the IgE regulation have been suggested: one involved in the specific IgE response and the other one in the nonspecific response. To better understand the genetic mechanisms controlling IgE variation, we performed segregation analysis of IgE levels by ignoring or taking into account the specific response to allergens (SRA). Analyses were conducted using the class D regressive model, in a sample of 234 Australian nuclear families randomly selected during the winter months, when IgE levels are the lowest (basal). SRA, when included as a covariate in the model, was defined by one of the three following criteria: (1) raised specific IgE level for one or more allergens, (2) positive skin test for one or more allergens, and (3) at least one of the (1) or (2) criteria. When the presence of SRA is ignored, the familial transmission of total IgE level is compatible with the segregation of a recessive major gene and residual familial correlations. When the presence of SRA is accounted for in the analysis, whether defined by criteria (1), (2), or (3), there is still evidence for a recessive major gene controlling IgE levels but residual familial correlations are no longer significant. In addition, no interaction between this major gene and SRA is shown here. Our results suggest that this gene, which accounts for 28% of the variation of the trait, may be involved in the control of basal IgE production, independently of specific response to allergens.

Original publication




Journal article


Genet Epidemiol

Publication Date





93 - 105


Adolescent, Adult, Allergens, Child, Child, Preschool, Female, Genes, Recessive, Humans, Hypersensitivity, Immunoglobulin E, Male, Middle Aged, Models, Genetic, Regression Analysis, Sampling Studies, Skin Tests, Western Australia