Identification of an 11S globulin as a major hazelnut food allergen in hazelnut-induced systemic reactions

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002 Sep;110(3):517-23. doi: 10.1067/mai.2002.127434.


Background: Hazelnuts are a common cause of food allergy. Allergic reactions to hazelnuts range from oral allergy syndrome caused by cross-reactivity between tree pollen and hazelnut proteins to severe anaphylactic reactions. Little information is available regarding the identification of pollen-independent hazelnut allergens.

Objective: The aim of the study was to identify these pollen-independent allergens in patients with hazelnut allergy with systemic reactions.

Methods: Extracted hazelnut proteins were separated by means of 2-dimensional PAGE, and immunolabeling was performed with individual sera from 14 patients with hazelnut-induced systemic reactions. Edman sequencing was performed on a 40-kd protein identified as an allergen. In parallel, RNA isolated from hazelnuts was used to construct a cDNA library. By using the peptide sequence data, oligonucleotide primers were synthesized and used to screen the library. Full-length cDNA clones were isolated, sequenced, expressed, and screened with patient sera.

Results: By using 2-dimensional proteomics, a protein fraction at 40 kd was recognized by serum IgE from 86% (12/14) of the patients with hazelnut allergy with systemic reactions. Two internal amino acid sequences were determined by means of Edman sequencing. Screening of the prepared hazelnut cDNA library with oligonucleotides based on these internal peptide sequences resulted in isolation of a novel protein cDNA. The new protein, named Cor a 9, belongs to the 11S globulin seed storage protein family. This family comprises known food allergens in peanut (Ara h 3) and soybean (glycine max). The pairwise homology among these 3 proteins ranges from 45% to 50%. Interestingly, one known IgE-binding epitope of Ara h 3 shares 67% of homologous amino acid residues with the corresponding area of Cor a 9. The amino acids that differ were previously shown not to be critical for IgE binding in Ara h 3.

Conclusion: Cor a 9 is the first tree pollen-unrelated hazelnut allergen isolated, sequenced, and cloned. The identification of food allergens is the first step toward generating recombinant allergens for use in future immunotherapeutic approaches. In addition, the detection of conserved IgE epitopes in common food allergens, such as seed storage proteins, might be a useful tool for predicting cross-reactivity to certain foods.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / chemistry
  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antigens, Plant
  • Base Sequence
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional
  • Globulins / chemistry
  • Globulins / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nut Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Nut Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Nuts / immunology*
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / immunology*
  • Seed Storage Proteins
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Allergens
  • Antigens, Plant
  • Cor a 9 protein, hazelnut
  • Globulins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Seed Storage Proteins
  • allergen Ara h3
  • Immunoglobulin E