Sialylated Fetuin-A as a candidate predictive biomarker for successful grass pollen allergen immunotherapy

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Eligibility to immunotherapy is based on the determination of IgE reactivity to a specific allergen by means of skin prick or in vitro testing. Biomarkers predicting the likelihood of clinical improvement during immunotherapy would significantly improve patient selection.


Proteins were differentially assessed by using 2-dimensional differential gel electrophoresis and label-free mass spectrometry in pretreatment sera obtained from clinical responders and nonresponders within a cohort of 82 patients with grass pollen allergy receiving sublingual immunotherapy or placebo. Functional studies of Fetuin-A (FetA) were conducted by using gene silencing in a mouse asthma model, human dendritic cell in vitro stimulation assays, and surface plasmon resonance.


Analysis by using quantitative proteomics of pretreatment sera from patients with grass pollen allergy reveals that high levels of O-glycosylated sialylated FetA isoforms are found in patients exhibiting a strong decrease in rhinoconjunctivitis symptoms after sublingual immunotherapy. Although FetA is involved in numerous inflammatory conditions, its potential role in allergy is unknown. In vivo silencing of the FETUA gene in BALB/c mice results in a dramatic upregulation of airway hyperresponsiveness, lung resistance, and TH2 responses after allergic sensitization to ovalbumin. Both sialylated and nonsialytated FetA bind to LPS, but only the former synergizes with LPS and grass pollen or mite allergens to enhance the Toll-like receptor 4–mediated proallergic properties of human dendritic cells.


As a reflection of the patient's inflammatory status, pretreatment levels of sialylated FetA in the blood are indicative of the likelihood of clinical responses during grass pollen immunotherapy.

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