IgE sensitisation has increased significantly over the last decades and is a crucial factor in the development of allergic diseases. IgE antibodies are produced by B cells through the process of antigen presentation by dendritic cells, subsequent differentiation of CD4+
Th2 cells, and class switching in B cells. However, many of the factors regulating these processes remain unclear. These processes affect males and females differently, resulting in a significantly higher prevalence of IgE sensitisation in males compared to females from an early age. Before the onset of puberty, this increased prevalence of IgE sensitisation is also associated with a higher prevalence of clinical symptoms in males; however, after puberty, females experience a surge in the incidence of allergic symptoms. This is particularly apparent in allergic asthma, but also in other allergic diseases such as food and contact allergies. This has been partly attributed to the pro- versus anti-allergic effects of female versus male sex hormones; however, it remains unclear how the expression of sex hormones translates IgE sensitisation into clinical symptoms. In this review, we describe the recent epidemiological findings on IgE sensitisation in male and females and discuss recent mechanistic studies casting further light on how the expression of sex hormones may influence the innate and adaptive immune system at mucosal surfaces and how sex hormones may be involved in translating IgE sensitisation into clinical manifestations.
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