A pectin methylesterase as an allergenic marker for the sensitization to Russian thistle (Salsola kali) pollen


Mayte Villalba, Dpto. Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Facultad de Ciencias Químicas, Universidad Complutense, 28040 Madrid, Spain.
E-mail: mayte@bbm1.ucm.es


Background Chenopodiaceae pollen is considered the main cause of pollen allergy in desert countries and its incidence is world-wide increasing by the desertization of extensive zones. Although the correlation between the sensitization to Chenopodium album and Salsola kali pollens of patients suffering from allergy to Chenopodiaceae pollens is high, a significant number of patients exhibited IgE sensitivity exclusively towards S. kali.

Objective To analyse this differential reactivity and to purify, clone and characterize the putative responsible allergen.

Methods Immunoblotting was used to analyse the IgE binding to pollen extract for S. kali and C. album. The protein was isolated by two chromatographic steps and characterized by Edman degradation, mass spectrometry, finger print analysis and Concanavalin A lectin staining. Specific cDNA was amplified by polymerase chain reaction, cloned in Escherichia coli and sequenced. Immunologic characterization was performed by immunoblotting, enzyme-linked immunoassay detection and inhibition experiments using sera from 11 patients allergic to S. kali pollen.

Results cDNA codifies for a mature protein of 339 amino acids plus a putative signal peptide of 23 residues and it belongs to the plant pectin methylesterase (PME) family. It is a mildly basic and polymorphic protein and was recognized by the IgE from all the patients allergic to S. kali included in the study, and was called Sal k 1. The protein was not recognized in the C. album pollen extract using the sera of these patients.

Conclusion Sal k 1 is a protein from the PME family with a high allergenic relevance. Considering this allergen as responsible for the different sensitization between S. kali and C. album pollen, it may be a useful marker to classify patients allergic to Chenopodiaceae allowing a safer and more specific immunotherapy.