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Mol Immunol. 1999 Feb;36(3):155-67.

Cross-reactivity and epitope analysis of Pru a 1, the major cherry allergen.

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Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, Department of Allergology, Langen, Germany.


A high percentage of birch pollen allergic patients experiences food hypersensivity after ingestion of fresh fruits and vegetables. The cross-reactivity of the major allergens of sweet cherry (Pru a 1), apple (Mal d 1), pear (Pyr c 1), celery tuber (Api g 1) and carrot (Dau c 1) is due to structural similarities which are reflected by high amino acid sequence identities with Bet v 1a, the major birch pollen allergen. Apart from a strong cross-reactivity to Bet v 1a, IgE inhibition experiments with Mal d 1, Pru a 1 and Api g 1 demonstrated the presence of common and different epitopes among the tested food allergens. Secondary structure prediction of all investigated allergens indicated the presence of almost identical structural elements. In particular, the 'P-loop' region is a common domain of the pollen related food allergens and of pathogenesis related proteins. To identify the IgE binding epitopes, five overlapping recombinant Pru a 1 fragments representing the entire amino acid sequence with lengths of approximately 60-120 residues were investigated. Weak IgE binding capacity was measured exclusively with Pru a IF4 (1-120) by immunoblotting, whereas none of the fragments showed allergenicity in the rat basophil leukaemia cell mediator release assay. Site-directed mutagenesis experiments with Pru a 1 revealed that amino acid S112 is critical for IgE binding of almost all patients sera tested. This reduced IgE binding was also observed with a single point mutant of Bet v 1a (S112P) and thus indicated serine 112 as an essential residue for preserving the structure of a cross-reactive IgE epitope. Moreover, two Pru a 1 mutants with an altered 'P-loop' region, showed a lowered IgE binding capacity for IgE from a subgroup of allergic patients. The investigation of essential features for preserving cross-reactive IgE-epitopes provides the structural basis for understanding the clinically observed cross-allergenicity between pollen and fruits. Moreover, non-anaphylactic allergen fragments or variants derived from the IgE-inducing pollen allergens may serve as useful tools for a new strategy of specific immunotherapy.

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