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PLoS One. 2017 Dec 11;12(12):e0188614. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0188614. eCollection 2017.

Conjugation of nitrated acetaminophen to Der p1 amplifies peripheral blood monocyte response to Der p1.

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Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pulmonology, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio, United States of America.
Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pulmonology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, United States of America.
Center of Proteomics and Bioinformatics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, United States of America.
Airbase Therapeutics, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America.



An association of acetaminophen use and asthma was observed in the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood study. However there are no clear mechanisms to explain an association between acetaminophen use and immunologic pathology. In acidic conditions like those in the stomach and inflamed airway, tyrosine residues are nitrated by nitrous and peroxynitrous acids. The resulting nitrotyrosine is structurally similar to 2,4-dinitrophenol and 2,4-dinitrochlorobenzene, known haptens that enhance immune responses by covalently binding proteins. Nitrated acetaminophen shares similar molecular structure.


We hypothesized the acetaminophen phenol ring undergoes nitration under acidic conditions, producing 3-nitro-acetaminophen which augments allergic responses by acting as a hapten for environmental allergens.


3-nitro-acetaminophen was formed from acetaminophen in the presence of acidified nitrite, purified by high performance liquid chromatography, and assayed by gas-chromatography mass spectrometry. Purified 3-nitro-acetaminophen was reacted with Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (Der p1) and analyzed by mass spectrometry to identify the modification site. Human peripheral blood mononuclear cells proliferation response was measured in response to 3-nitro-acetaminophen and to 3-nitro-acetaminophen-modified Der p1.


Acetaminophen was modified by nitrous acid forming 3-nitro-acetaminophen over a range of different acidic conditions consistent with airway inflammation and stomach acidity. The Der p1 protein-hapten adduct creation was confirmed by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry proteomics modifying cysteine 132. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells exposed to 3-nitro-acetaminophen-modified Der p1 had increased proliferation and cytokine production compared to acetaminophen and Der p1 alone (n = 7; p < 0.05).


These data suggests 3-nitro-acetaminophen formation and reaction with Der p1 provides a mechanism by which stomach acid or infection-induced low airway pH in patients could enhance the allergic response to proteins such as Der p1.

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