Determinants of allergenicity

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Mar;123(3):558-66. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2008.12.003. Epub 2009 Jan 18.


The question "What makes an allergen an allergen?" has puzzled generations of researchers, and we still do not have a conclusive answer. Despite increasing knowledge about the molecular and functional characteristics of allergens that have been identified, we still do not fully understand why some proteins are clinically relevant allergens and most are not. Different approaches have been taken to identify the structural and functional features of allergens, aiming at developing methods to predict allergenicity and thus to identify allergens. However, none of these methods has allowed a reliable discrimination between allergenic and nonallergenic compounds on its own. This review sums up diverse determinants that contribute to the phenomenon of allergenicity and outlines that in addition to the structure and function of the allergen, factors derived from allergen carriers, the environment, and the susceptible individual are of importance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / immunology*
  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Allergens / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cross Reactions / immunology
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / genetics
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity / metabolism
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Molecular Structure
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism


  • Air Pollutants
  • Allergens
  • Cytokines
  • Immunoglobulin E