• antigen processing;
  • tolerogen;
  • oral tolerance;
  • delayed-type hypersensitivity ovalbumin


In an attempt to investigate the molecular basis of the mechanisms underlying oral tolerance, we have evaluated the molecular and biological features of ovalbumin subjected to intestinal processing. Immunoreactive ovalbumin absorbed by the gut was measured by a sandwich ELISA at different times after feeding 25 mg ovalbumin to adult mice. Ovalbumin was detected as early as 5 min after the feed (36.7 ± 16 ng/ml; mean± 1 s.d.) and reached maximal levels at 1 h (73.3 ± 20 ng/ml). Pooled mouse serum, collected 5 min or 1 h after the feed, was transferred intraperitoneally into the naive recipients. Suppression of systemic delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) was found in mice receiving 0.8 ml of serum obtained 1 h after ovalbumin feeding but not when using serum obtained 5 min after feeding. In order to transfer samples containing similar levels of ovalbumin, an increased amount (1.3 ml) of serum collected 5 min post-feed was used in further experiments but again failed to induce DTH tolerance. Serum samples obtained 5 and 60 min after ovalbumin feeding were analysed by fast-protein liquid chromatography (FPLC) fractionation followed by ELISA. Both the charge characteristics and molecular weight of intestinally absorbed ovalbumin were indistinguishable from native ovalbumin. Although intact native ovalbumin is the only molecular species detected by ELISA, the results suggest that this has no role in the suppression of DTH responses.