Background: Allergen-specific subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) is an antigen-specific therapy of IgE-mediated allergies. In the present study, we analyze the epitope specificities of antibody responses induced by SCIT with allergen extracts from pollen of trees belonging to the order Fagales (birch, alder, hazel) adsorbed onto aluminum hydroxide.
Methods: The IgE, IgG1-4 and IgA responses to defined recombinant allergens (birch pollen: Bet v 1; alder pollen: Aln g 1; hazel pollen: Cor a 1; apple: Mal d 1) as well as to Bet v 1-derived recombinant fragments and synthetic peptides were analyzed in sera from patients who had undergone SCIT for different periods of time.
Results: Long-term SCIT (>1 year; cumulative dose >1,000,000 SQ units) induced more pronounced IgG1, IgG2 and IgG4 responses to Bet v 1 and Bet v 1-related allergens according to the degree of sequence homology (Bet v 1>Aln g 1>Cor a 1>Mal d 1) than short-term SCIT (<1 year; cumulative dose <1,000,000 SQ units). In contrast to patients treated for <1 year, patients treated for >1 year mounted distinct IgG1, IgG2 and IgG4 responses against sequential Bet v 1 epitopes. No relevant allergen-specific IgA or IgG3 responses were induced by short- or long-term SCIT. Using a competitive ELISA assay, it could be shown that serum IgG from patients undergoing long-term SCIT inhibited IgE reactivity to Bet v 1 better than IgG from patients undergoing short-term SCIT.
Conclusion: SCIT with allergen extracts adsorbed onto aluminum hydroxide induces IgG responses against new epitopes that block IgE binding and cross-react with structurally related allergens depending, among other factors, on duration of treatment and cumulative injected dose.