Background IgE antibodies specific for the major birch-pollen allergen, Bet v 1, cross-react with homologous allergens in particular foods, e.g. apples, carrots and hazelnuts. In a high number of tree pollen-allergic individuals, this cross-reactivity causes clinical symptoms, commonly known as the ‘birch-fruit-syndrome’.
Objective To characterize the T cell response to the Bet v 1-related major allergen in hazelnuts, Cor a 1.04, and its cellular cross-reactivity with Bet v 1 and the homologous hazel pollen allergen, Cor a 1.
Methods Using recombinant Cor a 1.04, T cell lines (TCL) and T cell clones (TCC) were established from peripheral blood mononuclear cells of tree pollen-allergic patients with associated food allergy. T cell epitopes were determined using overlapping synthetic peptides in Cor a 1.04-reactive TCL and TCC. In parallel, reactivity to Bet v 1 and Cor a 1 was tested.
Results In total, 20 distinct T cell epitopes on the hazelnut allergen were identified. Several Cor a 1.04-specific TCL and TCC reacted with pollen allergens albeit less pronounced than with the hazelnut allergen. Several Cor a 1.04-specific TCC did not react with pollen allergens. Interestingly, these clones were found to react with the Bet v 1-related major allergen in carrots, Dau c 1. The cellular cross-reactivity between both food allergens could be associated with the most frequently recognized T cell epitope of Cor a 1.04, Cor a 1.04142–153.
Conclusions The major hazelnut allergen cross-reacts with the major allergens of birch and hazel pollen but apparently contains a relevant T cell epitope not shared with pollen allergens. Our finding may have important implications for the specific immunotherapy of tree pollen-allergic patients suffering from concomitant hazelnut allergy.