Over the last few decades, the cultivation of maize (Zea mays) has strongly increased in Central Europe. We therefore decided to study the allergen composition and the allergenic potency of its pollen in comparison with pollen from timothy grass (Phleum pratense), a typical representative of the native grasses. We found that 65% of the sera reactive to timothy pollen also bound to maize pollen proteins. By using 2-DE immunoblotting, followed by incubation with mAbs directed against known allergens or protein sequencing, those IgE-reactive components were further classified. Although novel, maize-specific pollen allergens could not be found, the presence of crossreacting allergens belonging to groups 1 and 13 (Zea m 1 and 13), both having high IgE prevalence, as well as the presence of the less important group 3 and 12 allergens was found. The structural variability of Zea m 1 and Zea m 13 was determined by sequencing clones isolated from a maize pollen cDNA library. This revealed sequence identities of 72 and 70%, respectively, to the corresponding Phl p 1 and Phl p 13 allergens of timothy grass pollen. IgE-crossreactivity was further studied using immunoblot inhibition tests. Here, timothy pollen extract completely blocked IgE binding to maize, whereas maize pollen extract blocked IgE reactivity to only some timothy pollen allergens.
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