Molecular spreading and predictive value of preclinical IgE response to Phleum pratense in children with hay fever

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012 Oct;130(4):894-901.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.05.053. Epub 2012 Jul 25.


Background: IgE sensitization against grass pollen is a cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Objective: We sought to investigate the evolution at the molecular level and the preclinical predictive value of IgE responses against grass pollen.

Methods: The German Multicentre Allergy Study examined a birth cohort born in 1990. A questionnaire was administered yearly, and blood samples were collected at 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, and 13 years of age. Grass pollen-related seasonal allergic rhinitis (SARg) was diagnosed according to nasal symptoms in June/July. Serum IgE antibodies to Phleum pratense extract and 8 P pratense molecules were tested with immune-enzymatic singleplex and multiplex assays, respectively.

Results: One hundred seventy-seven of the 820 examined children had SARg. A weak monomolecular/oligomolecular IgE response to P pratense was observed very frequently before SARg onset. These initial IgE responses increased in concentration and molecular complexity during the preclinical and clinical process. A typical progression of IgE sensitization was observed: Phl p 1 (initiator in >75% of cases); then Phl p 4 and Phl p 5; then Phl p 2, Phl p 6, and Phl p 11; and then Phl p 12 and Phl p 7. At age 3 years, IgE sensitization predicted SARg by age 12 years (positive predictive value, 68% [95% CI, 50% to 82%]; negative predictive value, 84% [95% CI, 80% to 87%]). At this preclinical prediction time, the number of recognized molecules and the serum levels of IgE to P pratense were significantly lower than at 3 or more years after SARg onset.

Conclusions: The IgE response against grass pollen molecules can start years before disease onset as a weak monosensitization or oligosensitization phenomenon. It can increase in serum concentration and complexity through a "molecular spreading" process during preclinical and early clinical disease stages. Testing IgE sensitization at a preclinical stage facilitates prediction of seasonal allergic rhinitis at its molecular monosensitization or oligosensitization stage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Phleum / immunology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / immunology*


  • Immunoglobulin E