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Clin Exp Allergy. 2006 Mar;36(3):303-10.

Characterization of T cell epitopes in alphas1-casein in cow's milk allergic, atopic and non-atopic children.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology/Allergology, University Medical Center, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



One to two percent of infants suffer from IgE-mediated allergic reactions against cow's milk proteins. Most children develop clinical tolerance, but approximately 15% are still allergic by the age of 10 years. Little is known about the T cell epitopes in individual cow's milk protein in relation to allergy and tolerance.


To identify T cell epitopes in alphas1-casein, the most abundant milk protein, and to investigate T cell responses toward these epitopes in allergic, atopic and non-atopic children.


Allergen-specific T cell lines (TCLs) were derived from peripheral blood mononuclear cells of 11 cow's milk allergic, nine atopic and nine non-atopic children. T cell responses were measured to alphas1-casein and to overlapping peptides (18-mers), spanning the alphas1-casein molecule. Proliferation was determined by incorporation of (3)H-thymidine, and cytokine production (IL-10, IL-13 and IFN-gamma) was measured by ELISA.


Four main regions (amino acid (AA) residues 43-66, 73-96, 91-114 and 127-180) in the alphas1-casein molecule were immunogenic to T cells, among which the AA residues 133-156 spanned the immunodominant part. Only subtle differences were found in peptide recognition between the subject groups. Some of the peptides induced slightly Th1- or Th2-skewed cytokine responses. The increased levels of IL-10 in response to alphas1-casein observed in TCLs from atopic children appeared not to be linked to recognition of specific IL-10-inducing epitopes.


The immunodominant sequence in alphas1-casein is spanned by AA residues 133-156. Tolerance towards alphas1-casein in atopic children may be mediated by an overall induction of IL-10 and not by recognition of certain T cell epitopes. The identified T cell epitopes in children with cow's milk allergy may be useful targets in developing peptide immunotherapy.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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