Background Allergen-specific immunotherapy is the only treatment for allergic disease providing long-lasting symptom relief. Currently, it is mainly based on the use of crude allergen extracts. The treatment may be improved by the use of genetically engineered allergens, hypoallergens, aiming at a more effective and safer therapy.
Objective The aim of this study was to provide a rational design of hypoallergen candidates for immunotherapy by using structural information and knowledge of B and T cell epitopes of an allergen.
Methods The three-dimensional structure of the major cat allergen Fel d 1 was systematically altered by duplication of selected T cell epitopes and disruption of disulphide bonds. Seven Fel d 1 derivatives were generated and screened for allergenic reactivity in comparison with recombinant Fel d 1 in competition-ELISA. The allergenicity was further evaluated in basophil activation experiments and T cell reactivity was assessed in a lymphoproliferation assay.
Results Three out of seven Fel d 1 derivatives, with two duplicated T cell epitopes and one or two disulphide bonds disrupted, were carefully evaluated. The three derivatives displayed a strong reduction in allergenicity with 400–900 times lower IgE-binding capacity than recombinant Fel d 1. In addition, they induced a lower degree of basophil activation and similar or stronger T cell proliferation than recombinant Fel d 1.
Conclusion By a rational approach, we have constructed three Fel d 1 hypoallergens with reduced IgE-binding capacities and retained T cell reactivities. This strategy may be applied to any well-characterized allergen to improve immunotherapy for allergic patients.