Two regions of Ole e 1, the major olive-pollen allergen, have been characterized as T-cell epitopes, one as immunodominant region (aa91–130) and the other, as mainly recognized by non-allergic subjects (aa10–31). This report tries to characterize the specific relevance of these epitopes in the allergic response to olive pollen by analyzing the secreted cytokines and the gene expression profiles induced after specific stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). PBMCs from olive pollen-allergic and non-allergic control subjects were stimulated with olive-pollen extract and Ole e 1 dodecapeptides containing relevant T-cell epitopes. Levels of cytokines were measured in cellular supernatants and gene expression was determined by microarrays, on the RNAs extracted from PBMCs. One hundred eighty-nine differential genes (fold change >2 or <−2, P < 0.05) were validated by qRT-PCR in a large population.
It was not possible to define a pattern of response according the overall cytokine results but interesting differences were observed, mainly in the regulatory cytokines. Principal component (PCA) gene-expression analysis defined clusters that correlated with the experimental conditions in the group of allergic subjects. Gene expression and functional analyses revealed differential genes and pathways among the experimental conditions. A set of 51 genes (many essential to T-cell tolerance and homeostasis) correlated with the response to aa10–31 of Ole e 1. In conclusion, two peptides derived from Ole e 1 could regulate the immune response in allergic patients, by gene-expression modification of several regulation-related genes. These results open new research ways to the regulation of allergy by Oleaceae family members.