Background Despite the fact that most significant mammalian respiratory allergens are lipocalin proteins, information on the human T cell reactivity to these allergenic proteins is largely missing.
Objective Knowing the T cell epitopes in allergens is a prerequisite for developing novel preparations for allergen immunotherapy.
Methods Specific T cell lines were generated with recombinant Equ c 1 from the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of 10 horse-allergic subjects. For determining T cell epitopes, the lines were stimulated with 16mer synthetic Equ c 1 peptides overlapping by 14 amino acids. The binding capacity of Equ c 1 peptides to human leucocyte antigen class II molecules was determined by the competitive ELISA.
Results The major horse allergen Equ c 1 resembles two other lipocalin allergens, the major cow allergen Bos d 2 and the major dog allergen Can f 1, in that it is weakly stimulatory for the PBMCs of sensitized subjects. Moreover, the T cell epitopes of Equ c 1 are clustered in a few regions along the molecule, as is the case with Bos d 2 and Can f 1. Similar to Bos d 2, Equ c 1 contains one immunodominant epitope region at the carboxy-terminal end of the molecule. The T cell lines of eight horse-allergic subjects out of 10 showed strong reactivity to one or both of the two overlapping peptides, p143–158 and p145–160, in this region. The region probably contains two overlapping epitopes.
Conclusion The 18mer peptide p143–160 from the immunodominant region of Equ c 1 is a potential candidate for the peptide-based immunotherapy of horse-sensitized subjects.