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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Feb 26;110(9):3459-64. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1300512110. Epub 2013 Feb 11.

Previously undescribed grass pollen antigens are the major inducers of T helper 2 cytokine-producing T cells in allergic individuals.

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La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.

Erratum in

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Mar 26;110(13):5269. Ferreira-Briza, Fatima [corrected to Ferreira, Fatima].
  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 May 21;110(21):8750.


T cells play an important role in the pathogenesis of allergic diseases. However, the proteins considered as potential immunogens of allergenic T-cell responses have traditionally been limited to those that induce IgE responses. Timothy grass (TG) pollen is a well-studied inhaled allergen for which major IgE-reactive allergens have also been shown to trigger T helper 2 (Th2) responses. Here we examined whether other TG pollen proteins are recognized by Th2 responses independently of IgE reactivity. A TG pollen extract was analyzed by 2D gel electrophoresis and IgE/IgG immunoblots using pooled sera from allergic donors. Mass spectrometry of selected protein spots in combination with de novo sequencing of the whole TG pollen transcriptome identified 93 previously undescribed proteins for further study, 64 of which were not targeted by IgE. Predicted MHC binding peptides from the previoulsy undescribed TG proteins were screened for T-cell reactivity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from allergic donors. Strong IL-5 production was detected in response to peptides from several of the previously undescribed proteins, most of which were not targeted by IgE. Responses against the dominant undescribed epitopes were associated with the memory T-cell subset and could even be detected directly ex vivo after Th2 cell enrichment. These findings demonstrate that a combined unbiased transcriptomic, proteomic, and immunomic approach identifies a greatly broadened repertoire of protein antigens targeted by T cells involved in allergy pathogenesis. The discovery of proteins that induce Th2 cells but are not IgE reactive may allow the development of safer immunotherapeutic strategies.

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