• Keywords: cross-reactivity;
  • allergens;
  • chymotrypsin;
  • elastase;
  • mites;
  • proteinases;
  • trypsin

Studies have shown that the dust mites Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and D. farinae contain several serine proteases, two of which have been shown to be allergenic, and to include trypasin and chymotrypsin, corresponding to the groups III and VI mite allergens. However, mites also contain other serine proteases, and the data reported in this study show that an elastase-like enzyme is present in both species. This enzyme was differentiated from the other serine proteases, particularly chymotrypsin, on the basis of charge, substrate specificity, and inhibition by copper and mercury cations. Its apparent mol. mass, as judged by gel filtration, was similar to those previously described for trypsain and chymotrypsin, i.e., 30 kDa. Several isoforms were detected by isoelectric focusing, but the isoelectric points of the major forms in both D. pteronyssinus and D. farinae were 10.5 and 9.8, respectively, contrasting with the acidic mite chymotrypsins. All three serine proteases were detected in whole mite and faecally enriched extracts, but the activities of trypsin and the elastase-like enzyme were greater in the latter type of extract. These data were similar to those obtained by quantitative immunochemical analysis of the D. farinae group III allergen in appropriate extracts, suggesting that culture conditions may modulate protease production. A monoclonal antibody affinity matrix specific for the group III allergen from D. farinae was shown to bind mite trypsin. However, a small amount of mite chymotrypsin also bound, suggesting limited immunologic cross-reactivity, a finding consistent with known sequence data.