Background With the increasing interest in novel foods derived from transgenic crop plants, there is a growing need for the development of approaches for the characterization of the allergenic potential of proteins. Whereas immunogenicity is a common property of foreign proteins, including food proteins, relatively few are significant dietary allergens with the inherent capacity to provoke IgE antibody production and immediate-type hypersensitivity responses.
Objective In order to evaluate an approach for the measurement of the allergenic potential of proteins, detailed dose–response analyses of humoral immune responses induced following systemic exposure of BALB/c strain mice to proteins known to differ in terms of sensitizing activity have been conducted.
Results Mice were exposed to a range of concentrations of ovalbumin, a major allergenic constituent of hen's egg, a purified peanut allergen, Arachis hypogea agglutinin, or to the milk allergen bovine serum albumin, and to materials considered to lack significant allergenicity: a crude potato protein extract and a purified potato protein, potato agglutinin. The specific IgE antibody was measured by homologous passive cutaneous anaphylaxis assay, and the specific IgG antibody was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Each of the five proteins was immunogenic in mice, inducing IgG antibody responses at all doses tested, although there was some variation with respect to the vigour of IgG responses. Marked differences in the capacity of these proteins to induce IgE responses were observed, however, with relatively high-titre IgE antibody provoked by all three allergens over the dose ranges examined, whereas the potato proteins stimulated low-titre IgE antibody at the highest dose (10%) only. Importantly, differences in IgE antibody production have been observed against a background of equivalent immunogenicity (IgG antibody responses).
Conclusion The data presented here suggest that the measurement of antibody (IgE) responses in BALB/c mice appears to identify allergens accurately and to distinguish them from those materials that apparently lack allergenicity.
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