Systemic allergic reaction to coconut (Cocos nucifera) in 2 subjects with hypersensitivity to tree nut and demonstration of cross-reactivity to legumin-like seed storage proteins: new coconut and walnut food allergens

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999 Jun;103(6):1180-5. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(99)70196-x.


Background: Two patients with tree nut allergy manifested by life-threatening systemic reactions reported the subsequent onset of systemic reactions after the consumption of coconut.

Objective: Herein, the IgE-binding proteins from coconut are described, and in vitro cross-reactivity with other nuts is investigated.

Methods: The IgE-binding profile of coconut endosperm tissue extract was analyzed by SDS-PAGE followed by immunoblotting. Immunoblot inhibition studies with walnut, almond, peanut, and coconut were performed.

Results: Sera IgE from both patients recognized reduced coconut allergens with molecular weights of 35 and 36.5 kd. IgE from 1 patient also bound a 55-kd antigen. Preabsorption of sera with nut extracts suppressed IgE binding to coconut proteins. Preabsorption of sera with coconut caused the disappearance of IgE binding to protein bands at 35 and 36 kd on a reduced immunoblot of walnut protein extract in 1 patient and suppression of IgE binding to a protein at 36 kd in the other patient.

Conclusion: The reduced coconut protein at 35 kd was previously shown to be immunologically similar to soy glycinin (legumin group of seed storage proteins). The clinical reactivity in these 2 patients is likely due to cross-reacting IgE antibodies primarily directed against walnut, the original clinical allergy reported, and most likely to a walnut legumin-like protein. Coconut allergy in patients with tree nut allergy is rare; these are the first 2 patients ever reported, and therefore there is no general indication to advise patients with tree nut allergy to avoid coconut.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Cocos / immunology*
  • Cross Reactions / immunology
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Fabaceae
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / immunology*
  • Immunoblotting
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuts / adverse effects*
  • Plant Proteins / adverse effects*
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Seeds / adverse effects*
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate


  • Allergens
  • Plant Proteins
  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate