Protein families: implications for allergen nomenclature, standardisation and specific immunotherapy

Arb Paul Ehrlich Inst Bundesinstitut Impfstoffe Biomed Arzneim Langen Hess. 2009;96:249-54; discussion 254-6.


Allergens are embedded into the protein universe as members of large families and superfamilies of related proteins which is a direct consequence of their shared evolution. The classification of allergens by protein families offers a valuable frame of reference that allows the design of experiments to study cross-reactivity and allergenic potency of proteins. Information on protein family membership also complements the current official IUIS allergen nomenclature. All presently known allergens belong to one of 140 (1.4%) of the 10,340 protein families currently described by version 23.0 of the Pfam database. This is indicative of a strong bias among allergens towards certain protein architectures that are able to induce an IgE response in an atopic immune system. However, even small variations in the structure of a protein alter its immunological characteristics. Various isoforms of the major birch pollen allergen Bet v 1 were shown to possess highly variant immunogenic and allergenic properties. Ber e 1 and SFA8, two 2S albumins, were revealed to display differential capacities to polarise an immune response. Such data will be exploited in the future for the design of allergy vaccines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / classification
  • Allergens / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Desensitization, Immunologic* / standards
  • Humans
  • Proteins / classification
  • Proteins / immunology*
  • Proteins / therapeutic use*
  • Reference Standards
  • Terminology as Topic


  • Allergens
  • Proteins