Background Almost 100 million allergic patients are sensitized to the major birch pollen allergen, Bet v 1, a 17 kDa protein containing most of the IgE epitopes present in pollens of trees belonging to the Fagales order and plant-derived food.
Objective Our aim was to develop an approach for the rational design of B cell epitope-derived, non-allergenic peptide allergy vaccines.
Methods According to the three-dimensional (3-D) structure of birch pollen allergen, Bet v 1, six peptides comprising 25–32 preferably solvent-exposed amino acids were synthesized.
Results Because of lack of secondary structure, the peptides showed no allergenic activity in allergic patients. In a mouse model of birch pollen allergy, peptide vaccination induced Bet v 1-specific IgG and prevented IgE-mediated allergic sensitization to Bet v 1. The protective role of peptide-induced blocking antibodies is demonstrated by inhibition of allergic patients IgE binding to the allergen and by blocking of allergen-induced basophil degranulation.
Conclusion Our results indicate the mechanistic importance of blocking antibodies for allergy vaccination and present a B cell epitope-based approach for the rational design of safe peptide allergy vaccines whenever the structure of the disease-eliciting allergen is known.