Background The process of gastro-duodenal digestion may play a role in determining the allergenic properties of food proteins. The sensitizing and allergenic potential of digestion products of highly degraded allergens, such as the major peanut allergen Ara h 1, is currently under debate. We evaluated the effect of in vitro gastro-duodenal digestion of Ara h 1 on T cell reactivity and basophil histamine release.
Methods An in vitro model of gastro-duodenal digestion was used to investigate changes in the allergenic properties of Ara h 1 using in vitro assays monitoring T cell reactivity (proliferation, cytokine production) and histamine release of basophils from peanut allergic individuals. The digestion process was monitored using an SDS-PAGE gel.
Results In vitro gastric digestion led to rapid degradation of Ara h 1 into small fragments Mr L5600. Gastric digestion did not affect the ability of Ara h 1 to stimulate cellular proliferation. Gastro-duodenal digestion significantly reduced its ability to stimulate clonal expansion (P<0,05; Wilxocon's signed rank test). The Th-2 type cytokine polarization of T cells from peanut allergic donors (IFN-γ/IL-13 ratio and IFN-γ/IL-4 ratio of CFSElow CD4+ T cells) remained unchanged regardless of the level of digestion. Histamine release of basophils from peanut allergic individuals was induced to the same extent by native Ara h 1 and its digestion products.
Conclusion Gastro-duodenal digestion fragments of Ara h 1 retain T cell stimulatory and IgE-binding and cross-linking properties of the intact protein.