Ana o 1 and Ana o 2 cashew allergens share cross-reactive CD4+ T cell epitopes with other tree nuts

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Allergies to cashew are increasing in prevalence, with clinical symptoms ranging from oral pruritus to fatal anaphylactic reaction. Yet, cashew-specific T cell epitopes and T cell cross-reactivity amongst cashew and other tree nut allergens in humans remain uncharacterized.


In this study, we characterized cashew-specific T cell responses in cashew-allergic subjects and examined cross-reactivity of these cashew-specific cells towards other tree nut allergens.


CD154 up-regulation assay was used to determine immunodominance hierarchy among cashew major allergens at the T cell level. The phenotype, magnitude and functionality of cashew-specific T cells were determined by utilizing ex vivo staining with MHC class II tetramers. Dual tetramer staining and proliferation experiments were used to determine cross-reactivity to other tree nuts.


CD4+ T cell responses were directed towards cashew allergens Ana o 1 and Ana o 2. Multiple Ana o 1 and Ana o 2 T cell epitopes were then identified. These epitopes elicited either TH2 or TH2/TH17 responses in allergic subjects, which were either cashew unique epitope or cross-reactive epitopes. For clones that recognized the cross-reactive epitope, T cell clones responded robustly to cashew, hazelnut and/or pistachio but not to walnut.


Phylogenetically diverse tree nut allergens can activate cashew-reactive T cells and elicit a TH2-type response at an epitope-specific level.

Clinical relevance

Lack of cross-reactivity between walnut and cashew suggests that cashew peptide immunotherapy approach may not be most effective for walnut.

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