Fusion proteins of flagellin and the major birch pollen allergen Bet v 1 show enhanced immunogenicity, reduced allergenicity, and intrinsic adjuvanticity.

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Recombinant fusion proteins of flagellin and antigens have been demonstrated to induce strong innate and adaptive immune responses. Such fusion proteins can enhance the efficacy of allergen-specific immunotherapy.


We sought to characterize different fusion proteins of flagellin and the major birch pollen allergen Bet v 1 for suitability as allergy vaccines.


A truncated version of flagellin (NtCFlg) was genetically fused to the N- or C-terminus of Bet v 1. Toll-like receptor (TLR) 5 binding was assessed with HEK293 cells expressing TLR5. Upregulation of CD40, CD80, CD83, and CD86 on monocyte-derived dendritic cells from allergic patients was analyzed by using flow cytometry. The T cell-stimulatory capacity of the fusion proteins was assessed with naive and Bet v 1-specific T cells. IgE binding was tested in inhibition ELISAs and basophil activation tests. Mice were immunized with the fusion proteins in the absence and presence of aluminum hydroxide. Cellular and antibody responses were monitored. Murine antibodies were tested for blocking capacity in basophil activation tests.


Both fusion proteins matured monocyte-derived dendritic cells through TLR5. Compared with Bet v 1, the fusion proteins showed stronger T cell-stimulatory and reduced IgE-binding capacity and induced murine Bet v 1-specific antibodies in the absence of aluminum hydroxide. However, only antibodies induced by means of immunization with NtCFlg fused to the C-terminus of Bet v 1 inhibited binding of patients' IgE antibodies to Bet v 1.


Bet v 1-flagellin fusion proteins show enhanced immunogenicity, reduced allergenicity, and intrinsic adjuvanticity and thus represent promising vaccines for birch pollen allergen-specific immunotherapy. However, the sequential order of allergen and adjuvant within a fusion protein determines its immunologic characteristics.

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