Sequence homology: a poor predictive value for profilins cross-reactivity

Clin Mol Allergy. 2005 Sep 10;3:13. doi: 10.1186/1476-7961-3-13.


Background: Profilins are highly cross-reactive allergens which bind IgE antibodies of almost 20% of plant-allergic patients. This study is aimed at investigating cross-reactivity of melon profilin with other plant profilins and the role of the linear and conformational epitopes in human IgE cross-reactivity.

Methods: Seventeen patients with melon allergy were selected based on clinical history and a positive skin prick test to melon extract. Melon profilin has been cloned and expressed in E. coli. The IgE binding and cross-reactivity of the recombinant profilin were measured by ELISA and inhibition ELISA. The amino acid sequence of melon profilin was compared with other profilin sequences. A combination of chemical cleavage and immunoblotting techniques were used to define the role of conformational and linear epitopes in IgE binding. Comparative modeling was used to construct three-dimensional models of profilins and to assess theoretical impact of amino acid differences on conformational structure.

Results: Profilin was identified as a major IgE-binding component of melon. Alignment of amino acid sequences of melon profilin with other profilins showed the most identity with watermelon profilin. This melon profilin showed substantial cross-reactivity with the tomato, peach, grape and Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda grass) pollen profilins. Cantaloupe, watermelon, banana and Poa pratensis (Kentucky blue grass) displayed no notable inhibition. Our experiments also indicated human IgE only react with complete melon profilin. Immunoblotting analysis with rabbit polyclonal antibody shows the reaction of the antibody to the fragmented and complete melon profilin. Although, the well-known linear epitope of profilins were identical in melon and watermelon, comparison of three-dimensional models of watermelon and melon profilins indicated amino acid differences influence the electric potential and accessibility of the solvent-accessible surface of profilins that may markedly affect conformational epitopes.

Conclusion: Human IgE reactivity to melon profilin strongly depends on the highly conserved conformational structure, rather than a high degree of amino acid sequence identity or even linear epitopes identity.