Rabbits are frequently used as laboratory animals or kept as domestic pets. Rabbit serum albumin and a 17-kDa protein referred to as Ory c 1 have previously been reported as allergens. Several other allergenic proteins have been recognized by crossed immuno-electrophoresis but have not been characterized.
The aim of this study was to characterize the allergenic proteins present in rabbit saliva, urine and fur on the basis of molecular size and, where possible, to determine their amino acid sequences.
Extracts from the male New Zealand white rabbit were used for developing specific direct RAST and RAST inhibition assays. Proteins in the extracts were separated by SDS-PAGE and the individual allergens identified by immunoblotting with serum from rabbit-allergic individuals. The N-termini of four allergens were sequenced.
Saliva was the most potent extract. In total, 26 protein bands were recognized as allergens in the three extracts: 12 in saliva, seven in urine and seven in fur. Their molecular weights ranged from an 8-kDa species in saliva to an 80-kDa protein in urine. The N terminal sequences of an 18 kDa and a 21-kDa species in saliva, were identified as lipocalins with sequence similarity to a recently described odourant binding protein.
This is the first evidence that allergens from the rabbit are members of the lipocalin superfamily of proteins, suggesting that similar mechanisms may be involved in eliciting the allergic response to rabbits. The 18 kDa allergen from saliva may be the previously named rabbit allergen, Ory c 1.