• Bet v 1;
  • birch pollen allergy;
  • cross-reactivity;
  • food allergy;
  • T cells

Patients with birch pollen allergy frequently develop hypersensitivity reactions to certain foods, e.g. apples, celery, carrots and hazelnuts. These reactions are mainly caused by IgE-antibodies specific for the major birch pollen allergen, Bet v 1, which cross-react with homologous proteins in these foods. Analyzing the T-cell response to Bet v 1-related food allergens revealed that these dietary proteins contain several distinct T-cell epitopes and activate Bet v 1-specific T cells to proliferate and produce cytokines. Several of these cross-reactive T-cell epitopes were not destroyed by simulated gastrointestinal digestion of food allergens and stimulated Bet v 1-specific T cells despite nonreactivity with IgE antibodies. Similarly, cooked food allergens did not elicit IgE-mediated symptoms (oral allergy syndromes) but caused T-cell-mediated late-phase reactions (deterioration of atopic eczema) in birch pollen-allergic patients with atopic dermatitis because thermal processing affected their conformational structure and not the primary amino acid sequence. Thus, T-cell cross-reactivity between Bet v 1 and related food allergens occurs independently of IgE-cross-reactivity in vitro and in vivo. We speculate that symptom-free consumption of pollen-related food allergens may have implications for the pollen-specific immune response of allergic individuals.