Background Tree nuts, including English walnuts (Juglans regia), are sources of food allergens often associated with life-threatening allergic reactions. It is unknown if seed storage proteins from other Juglans species have IgE epitopes similar to those of the important English walnut allergens, Jug r 1 (2S albumin) and Jug r 2 (vicilin-like).
Objective To screen for potential germplasm sources of hypoallergenic seed storage proteins of relevance in walnut food allergy. We sought to identify English walnut cultivars (cvs) or other Juglans species that showed decreased IgE binding to major seed storage proteins or an inability to cross-react with Jug r 1 or Jug r 2.
Methods We determined if IgE in sera of patients who have had life-threatening systemic reactions to English walnut bound protein extracts from all tested walnut cvs (57 cvs total) or species (six) by Western immunoblot. Further, we used immunoblot inhibition to determine the in vitro cross-reactivity of Jug r 1 and Jug r 2, native and recombinant, with several walnut species.
Results All walnut cvs and species contain allergenic proteins. Furthermore, as shown by in vitro immunoblot inhibition, the major walnut allergens in the species tested cross-reacted with those in J. regia cv. Chandler and J. nigra cv. Thomas extracts.
Conclusions Based on our findings, it is unlikely that a composite hypoallergenic walnut could be bred from available germplasm. In addition, patients with severe allergy to English walnut are likely to be clinically allergic to all commercial English walnut cvs and other closely related Juglans species.