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Keywords:

  • allergenic potency;
  • allergens;
  • Aspergillus fumigatus ;
  • climate change;
  • environmental allergens

Abstract

Increased susceptibility to allergies has been documented in the Western world in recent decades. However, a comprehensive understanding of its causes is not yet available. It is therefore essential to understand trends and mechanisms of allergy-inducing agents, such as fungal conidia. In this study, we investigated the hypothesis that environmental conditions linked to global atmospheric changes can affect the allergenicity of Aspergillus fumigatus, a common allergenic fungal species in indoor and outdoor environments and in airborne particulate matter. We show that fungi grown under present-day CO2 levels (392 ppm) exhibit 8.5 and 3.5 fold higher allergenicity compared to fungi grown at preindustrial (280 ppm) and double (560 ppm) CO2 levels, respectively. A corresponding trend is observed in the expression of genes encoding for known allergenic proteins and in the major allergen Asp f1 concentrations, possibly due to physiological changes such as respiration rates and the nitrogen content of the fungus, influenced by the CO2 concentrations. Increased carbon and nitrogen levels in the growth medium also lead to a significant increase in the allergenicity. We propose that climatic changes such as increasing atmospheric CO2 levels and changes in the fungal growth medium may impact the ability of allergenic fungi such as A. fumigatus to induce allergies.