Background: Food-processing techniques may induce changes in fish protein immunogenicity. Allergens from >100 fish species have been identified, but little is known on the effects of processing on fish protein immunogenicity.
Methods: IgE binding of sera of patients allergic to fresh and processed (smoked, salted/sugar-cured, canned, lye-treated and fermented) cod, haddock, salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel and herring and of hydrolysates based on salmon and whiting was investigated using immunoblot and inhibition ELISA.
Results: Parvalbumin oligomers were identified using monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies. IgE binding was seen in most sera at 12-14 kDa (parvalbumin), and at 17-60 kDa for all fish except tuna. Changes in IgE binding appeared to reflect altered parvalbumin monomers and oligomers. Smoked haddock, salmon and mackerel had increased IgE binding and novel bands at 30 kDa. Chemically processed cod, salmon, trout and pickled herring had reduced or abolished IgE binding. The serum of 1 subject, however, had increased IgE binding to these products and also inhibition of binding by both fish hydrolysates to their constituent fish species.
Conclusion: Process-induced changes in fish protein immunogenicity were more dependent on process rather than species, although individual responses varied. Changes in the allergenicity of a product may depend on the net effect of processing on parvalbumin oligomerization patterns, which may also vary in different species. Chemical processes generally caused loss in IgE-binding activity, though sensitization may occur to modified or degraded rather than intact peptides as shown by increased binding by chemically processed fish and hydrolysates in 1 subject. The clinical significance of these findings remains to be established.