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Keywords:

  • disulphide bridges;
  • hypoallergens;
  • mouse model;
  • Parietaria judaica;
  • recombinant allergens;
  • site-directed mutagenesis;
  • specific immunotherapy;
  • T and B epitopes

Summary

Background  Par j 1 represents the major allergenic component of Parietaria judaica pollen. Its three-dimensional structure is stabilized by four disulphide bridges. A family of three-dimensional mutants of the recombinant Par j 1 (rPar j 1) allergen, showing reduced allergenicity and retained T cell recognition has been recently developed by site-directed mutagenesis.

Objective  To develop and characterize a murine model of IgE sensitization to rPar j 1. To evaluate similarities between the murine model and the human IgE response. To investigate in this model the recognition of a hypoallergenic mutant of Par j 1, and to study the immune responses elicited in mice by the mutant itself.

Methods  BALB/c mice were sensitized by two intraperitoneal immunizations with rPar j 1 in alum on days 0 and 21. Allergen-specific serum IgE and IgG responses were studied by direct ELISA and immunoblotting, ELISA inhibition and competitive ELISA. Cell proliferation was evaluated in splenocyte cultures.

Results  Sensitization with rPar j 1 induced high levels of IgE and IgG1 vs. low levels of IgG2a. Mouse antibodies specific to rPar j 1 were able to compete with human IgE for recognition of rPar j 1. IgE from mice immunized with rPar j 1 showed a significantly reduced binding activity towards the hypoallergenic variant rPjC, which lacks three disulphide bridges. On the contrary, rPjC was recognized by IgG1 and IgG2a antibodies as well as rPar j 1. The proliferative response to rPjC by splenocytes from mice immunized with rPar j 1 was comparable to that stimulated by rPar j 1. Immunization with rPjC induced low levels of IgE antibodies to the rPjC itself, while IgG and proliferative responses were similar to those induced by rPar j 1.

Conclusion  Conformational variants of allergens, displaying reduced allergenicity accompanied by retained IgG and T cell recognition, offer a safe, specific and flexible approach to immunotherapy of type I allergy. Our mouse model of IgE sensitization to a recombinant allergen, mimicking the human response to its native counterpart, could provide valuable information for pre-clinical testing of such hypoallergenic molecules.