Epigenetic Mechanisms in Food Allergy

  • David J. MartinoEmail author
Reference work entry


Community rates of food allergy have been rising over the last 25 years at a rate too rapid to be explained by changes in genetics. Environmental changes brought about by urban development and industrialization have been linked to rising rates of food allergy. Modern environments are now less favorable for promoting healthy immune development in early life, and factors such as reduced microbial diversity and vitamin D insufficiency have been associated with higher rates of food allergy in young children. Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation mediate changes in gene expression, in response to environmental factors, and epigenetic states can be passed down to subsequent generations. Epigenetic mechanisms therefore provide a framework for understanding the mechanisms linking environment, genes, and the development of food allergies. Recent evidence suggests epigenetic perturbation at immune system genes is associated with childhood food allergy. The search for the causes of epigenetic disruption and the specific factors involved is now underway. Work in this area is anticipated to enhance our understanding of gene – environment interactions and their role in complex immune diseases like food allergy. In this review, we discuss the relevance of epigenetic research in understanding childhood food allergies and offer a state-of-play for scientific advancements in this area.


Food allergy Food hypersensitivity Epigenetics DNA methylation Epigenetics EWAS Hypersensitivity Peanut allergy 

List of Abbreviations


Cluster of differentiation


Double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge


Deoxyribose nucleic acid


DNA methylation


Developmental origins of health and disease


Epigenome-wide association study




Mitogen-activated kinase K


Nuclear Factor kappa B


Single nucleotide polymorphism




Tumor necrosis factor


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gastro and Food Allergy, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, The University of Melbourne Department of PaediatricsThe Royal Children’s HospitalMelbourneAustralia

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