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J Immunol. 2002 Jan 1;168(1):290-7.

Mast cell alpha-chymase reduces IgE recognition of birch pollen profilin by cleaving antibody-binding epitopes.

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Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


In sensitized individuals birch pollen induces an allergic response characterized by IgE-dependent mast cell degranulation of mediators, such as alpha-chymase and other serine proteases. In birch and other plant pollens, a major allergen is profilin. In mammals, profilin homologues are found in an intracellular form bound to cytoskeletal or cytosolic proteins or in a secreted form that may initiate signal transduction. IgE specific to birch profilin also binds human profilin I. This cross-reactivity between airborne and endogenous proteins may help to sustain allergy symptoms. The current work demonstrates that cultured mast cells constitutively secrete profilin I, which is susceptible to degranulation-dependent proteolysis. Coincubation of chymase-rich BR mastocytoma cells with Ala-Ala-Pro-Phe-chloromethylketone (a chymase inhibitor) blocks profilin cleavage, which does not occur in degranulated HMC-1 mast cells, which are rich in tryptase, but chymase deficient. These data implicate chymase as the serine protease cleaving secreted mast cell profilin. Sequencing of chymase-cleaved profilins reveals hydrolysis at Tyr(6)-Val(7) and Trp(35)-Ala(36) in birch profilin and at Trp(32)-Ala(33) in human profilin, with all sites lying within IgE-reactive epitopes. IgE immunoblotting studies with sera from birch pollen-allergic individuals demonstrate that cleavage by chymase attenuates binding of birch profilin to IgE. Thus, destruction of IgE-binding epitopes by exocytosed chymase may limit further mast cell activation by this class of common plant allergens, thereby limiting the allergic responses in sensitized individuals.

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