Tackling Bet v 1 and associated food allergies with a single hybrid protein

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Abstract

Background

Allergy vaccines should be easily applicable, safe, and efficacious. For Bet v 1–mediated birch pollen and associated food allergies, a single wild-type allergen does not provide a complete solution.

Objective

We aimed to combine immunologically relevant epitopes of Bet v 1 and the 2 clinically most important related food allergens from apple and hazelnut to a single hybrid protein, termed MBC4.

Methods

After identification of T cell epitope–containing parts on each of the 3 parental allergens, the hybrid molecule was designed to cover relevant epitopes and evaluated in silico. Thereby a mutation was introduced into the hybrid sequence, which should alter the secondary structure without compromising the immunogenic properties of the molecule.

Results

MBC4 and the parental allergens were purified to homogeneity. Analyses of secondary structure elements revealed substantial changes rendering the hybrid de facto nonreactive with patients’ serum IgE. Nevertheless, the protein was monomeric in solution. MBC4 was able to activate T-cell lines from donors with birch pollen allergy and from mice immunized with the parental allergens. Moreover, on immunization of mice and rabbits, MBC4 induced cross-reactive IgG antibodies, which were able to block the binding of human serum IgE.

Conclusion

Directed epitope rearrangements combined with a knowledge-based structural modification resulted in a protein unable to bind IgE from allergic patients. Still, properties to activate specific T cells or induce blocking antibodies were conserved. This suggests that MBC4 is a suitable vaccine candidate for the simultaneous treatment of Bet v 1 and associated food allergies.

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