Allergenic Activity of a Major Grass Pollen Allergen Is Elevated in the Presence of Nasal Secretion

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Phl p5 is a major allergen of timothy grass and causes rhinitis and bronchial asthma in nearly all patients allergic to grass pollen. The biochemical processing of this molecule by the nasal mucosa at its first encounter and possible changes of its biologic activity are unknown. Two isoforms of the allergen were expressed in Escherichia coli and subsequently purified. Conversion of these preparations to various forms with molecular size between 10 and 20 kD in the presence of nasal secretion was observed. Surprisingly, in skin prick test assays with allergic patients the mixture of converted peptides caused significantly higher allergic response when compared with the parent protein. Allergenic activity of the recombinant N-terminal Phl p5a and the C-terminal Phl p5b as measured by skin prick test and histamine release assays was significantly higher than that of the respective parent molecules. Using pancreatic rather than nasal secretion, Phl p5b was completely degraded and its allergenicity was almost completely reduced. Proteolytic degradation converts Phl p5 to defined fragments with increased allergenicity. Complete degradation of Phl p5 on the mucosa could be a preventive strategy to destroy its potency for the induction of an allergic response.

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