Prevention of allergen-specific IgE production and suppression of an established Th2-type response by immunization with DNA encoding hypoallergenic allergen derivatives of Bet v 1, the major birch-pollen allergen



In atopic patients, programming towards a preferential Th2 immunity leads to IgE antibody production and cellular Th2 immunity against otherwise harmless antigens. We report the development ofprophylactic and therapeutic DNA vaccines for the major birch-pollen allergen, Bet v 1. We constructed three DNA vaccines, coding for the complete cDNA, coding for two hypoallergenic fragments or coding for a hypoallergenic Bet v 1 mutant. The protective effect was studied in mice pretreated by intradermal DNA injections, then sensitized with Bet v 1 protein. Mice pretreated with any of the three Bet v 1-specific DNA vaccines were protected against allergic sensitization to Bet v 1. Protection was characterized by a lack of Bet v 1-specific IgE production, a lack of basophil activation and an enhanced IFN-γ expression. DNA vaccines with wild-type Bet v 1 induced strong Bet v 1-specific antibody responses whereas DNA vaccines with hypoallergenic Bet v 1 derivatives induced no (fragments) or only transient (mutant) Bet v 1-specific antibody responses. A therapeutic approach with the fragment-DNA vaccine reduced IgE production and stimulated a sustained Th1 cytokine milieu. Our results demonstrate that DNA vaccines with hypoallergenic forms of the allergen specifically protect against sensitization and suppress established Th2-type responses. This concept may be applied for the development of safe and specific DNA vaccines for the prophylaxis and therapy of allergic diseases.