It is suggested that patients with oral allergy syndrome (OAS) respond to pepsin-sensitive allergens, and systemic reactors identify pepsin-resistant allergens. We sought to assess the digestibility of kiwifruit proteins in simulated gastric fluid (SGF), and to compare the immunogenicity of the digests in patients with isolated oral and systemic reactions to kiwifruit. In addition, the effect of pH on digestibility of kiwifruit proteins was investigated. The in vitro resistance of kiwifruit proteins to digestion was determined using SGF. G-immunoglobulin (IgE) binding to digested proteins was investigated by Western blotting using sera from children and adults (aged 5-72 yr) with systemic reactions and patients with isolated oral symptoms. To determine whether pH conditions influence digestion of kiwifruit extracts, digestion at pHs 1.5-7 were compared by SDS-PAGE. Patients with systemic reactions showed IgE binding to digestion-resistant allergens, but patients with oral symptoms reacted only to digestion-labile allergens. An increase in pH from 1.5 to 2.5 significantly reduced pepsin breakdown of kiwifruit allergens. Immunoreactive digested protein fragments were detectable by immunoblot but not Coomassie stain. This study confirms a difference in the lability of food allergens recognized by patients with systemic reactions and those with OAS. Pepsin digestion of kiwifruit proteins was impaired by hypoacidic conditions suggesting that patients with hypoacidic gastric conditions are at increased risk of systemic absorption of allergens. The data indicate that commonly used methods for predicting allergenicity of novel proteins using Coomassie stains may be flawed.