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Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2000 Apr;121(4):261-9.

Regulation of specific immune responses by chemical and structural modifications of allergens.

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  • 1Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research (SIAF), Davos, Switzerland.


Specific immunotherapy (SIT) is an efficient treatment of allergic diseases to defined allergens. Despite being used in clinical practice since early in this century, more rational and safer regimens are required, because SIT is faced with the risk of anaphylaxis and standardization problems of allergen-extract-based treatments. A better understanding of the pathogenesis of allergy and of the mechanisms of SIT has led to various approaches to overcome these problems. Knowledge of the influence of IgE-facilitated antigen presentation on allergen-specific Th2 responses increased the efforts to generate non-IgE-binding allergens. The current principal approach to allergen modification is to modify B cell epitopes in order to prevent IgE binding and effector cell cross-linking while preserving T cell epitopes to retain the capacity of inducing tolerance. In this way, the modified allergen will be directed to T cells by a phagocytosis/pinocytosis-mediated antigen uptake mechanism, bypassing IgE cross-linking and IgE-dependent antigen presentation. Accordingly, a differential regulation of allergen-specific T cell cytokine patterns and IgE:IgG production was demonstrated by modifications of the three-dimensional structure of allergens because of linearity in T cell epitopes and conformation dependence in B cell epitopes. In this context, chemically modified allergen extracts with low IgE-binding capacity have been developed to reduce anaphylactic side effects since the early 1980s. The progress of recombinant techniques for producing allergens and allergen derivatives has led to a dramatic improvement in the ability of developing novel vaccines for the treatment of allergy. This has enabled mutation or deletion of decisive amino acids in B cell epitopes and fractionation or oligomerization of allergens by genetic engineering as fruitful approaches to generate hypoallergenic vaccines. Moreover, non-IgE-binding short T cell epitope peptides and single-amino-acid-altered peptide ligands represent potential candidates for future SIT.

Copyright 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel

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