Molecular Biology of Allergens: Structure and Immune Recognition

  • Martin D. Chapman
  • Anna Pomés
  • Rob C. Aalberse
Part of the Allergy Frontiers book series (ALLERGY, volume 1)

Allergens are defined as environmental agents that induce IgE-mediated immediate hypersensitivity reactions following inhalation, ingestion or injection. In some texts, allergens are described as ‘innocuous’ or‘harmless’, which is certainly true for the majority of non-sensitized individuals. However, for patients with hay fever, asthma or atopic dermatitis (AD), the majority of whom are sensitized to pollen or indoor allergens, exposure to allergens is far from harmless. Equally, local and systemic anaphylactic reactions to insect venom or food allergens are serious, and potentially life-threatening, problems for allergic patients. Little is understood about why certain allergens are associated with specific allergic conditions: why pollens cause hay fever, why asthma is strongly associated with indoor allergens and why peanut is such a potent cause of anaphylaxis. From the immunological point of view, it is important to distinguish between complete (‘true’, sensitising) allergens and incomplete (non-sensitising) allergens. Non-sensitising allergens are able to interact with IgE antibodies (which may or may not result in allergic symptoms), but are unable to induce the production of IgE antibodies. Their role as allergens fully depends on their cross-reactivity with complete (or sensitising) allergens. A good example of a non-sensitizing would be the apple allergen, Mal d 1, which is strongly cross-reactive with birch pollen, Bet v 1, but does not itself cause sensitization. While non-sensitizing cross-reacting allergens are of interest both from the clinical as well as from the immunological point of view, we focus in this chapter on allergenicity, the process that results in allergen-specific IgE synthesis.


Allergy Clin Immunol Pollen Allergen Mite Allergen Recombinant Allergen Indoor Allergen 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin D. Chapman
    • 1
  • Anna Pomés
    • 1
  • Rob C. Aalberse
    • 2
  1. 1.INDOOR Biotechnologies Inc.CharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Immunopathology, Sanquin Research and Amsterdam and Landsteiner Laboratory, Academic Medical CentreUniversity of AmsterdamCX AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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