Background: Pine pollen has long been considered a non-allergenic pollen. The large size of the grain and its low levels of proteins are the main reasons invoked to explain this low allergenicity. The aim of this study was to describe the main allergenic bands of Pinus radiata (PR) and its cross-reactivity with other pine species, other conifers and grass pollen.
Methods: Sixty-five pine-pollen-allergic patients (51% also sensitized to grass pollen) were studied. Skin prick tests (SPT) to a battery of allergens including PR, Pinus pinea, Pinus sylvestris, Pinus nigra and Cupressus sempervirens pollens and specific IgE determination to PR and Pinus strobus were performed. IgE-immunoblotting to a PR extract and other pine pollens was also carried out. UniCAP inhibition and immunoblotting inhibition studies were performed to assess the cross-reactivity between different pollens.
Results: The SPTs were positive with all the pine pollen extracts tested in 69% of the patients. Specific IgE was positive to PR or P. strobus in 77% of the patients, and to Lolium perenne in 51%. Nine different allergenic bands were detected. The two main allergens were a 42 kDa band recognized by 85% of the patients and a band of approximately 6-8 kDa recognized by 40%. A high degree of cross-reactivity was observed between different pine pollen species, but not between pines and C. sempervirens pollen. A partial cross-reactivity could be seen between pine and grass pollens only in patients also sensitized to L. perenne.
Conclusions: Pine pollen should be considered as a potential allergenic pollen especially where this pollen is abundant. The detection of a high number of patients that were monosensitized to pine pollen suggests the possibility of treating these patients with specific immunotherapy.