Recent progress in the biochemical classification and structural determination of allergens and allergen-antibody complexes has enhanced our understanding of the molecular determinants of allergenicity. Databases of allergens and their epitopes have facilitated the clustering of allergens according to their sequences and, more recently, their structures. Groups of similar sequences are identified for allergenic proteins from diverse sources, and all allergens are classified into a limited number of protein structural families. A gallery of experimental structures selected from the protein classes with the largest number of allergens demonstrate the structural diversity of the allergen universe. Further comparison of these structures and identification of areas that are different from innocuous proteins within the same protein family can be used to identify features specific to known allergens. Experimental and computational results related to the determination of IgE binding surfaces and methods to define allergen-specific motifs are highlighted.
Keywords: IgE epitopes; allergen PFAM classification; allergen specific motifs; cross-reactiviy; specific immunotherapy; structural database of allergenic proteins.