Evaluation of the effect of pollution and fungal disease on Pinus radiata pollen allergenicity

Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2013;160(3):241-50. doi: 10.1159/000341368. Epub 2012 Oct 16.


Background: Pollutants and other stressing factors like mold infection might increase the production of pathogen-related proteins in plants. Since this is invoked as one of the causes for the high prevalence of allergic diseases in developed countries, we aimed to determine the potential effect of environmental pollution, with or without mold infection of the trees, on the allergenic potency of pine pollen (Pinus radiata).

Methods: Pine pollen samples were recovered from three selected areas: low polluted (A), highly polluted (B) and highly polluted and infected with fungi (Spheropsis sapinea) (C). The allergenic potency of pollen from areas A, B or C were compared in vivo in 35 pine pollen-allergic patients by skin prick test and specific IgE (sIgE) quantification. Pollen was also analyzed in vitro by SDS-PAGE immunoblotting, RAST inhibition and cDNA-AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) to compare differences in proteins and mRNA expression.

Results: The allergenic potency measured by prick test, sIgE and RAST inhibition was greater in pollen A, which was exposed to smaller amounts of NO(x), PM(10) and SO(2) but greater amounts of O(3). No differences were found in IgE-binding bands in immunoblotting or densitometry of the bands. In cDNA-AFLP, three homologous transcript-derived fragments were expressed in samples B only, with an expressed sequence tag related with stress-regulated gene expression.

Conclusions: A greater allergenic potency, in terms of skin tests and sIgE, is observed in pine pollen coming from unpolluted areas. We consider that this fact might be related to a higher exposure to ozone, resulting in a greater expression of allergenic proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Pollution*
  • Female
  • Fungi / immunology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / immunology
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitrogen Compounds / adverse effects
  • Ozone / adverse effects
  • Pinus / immunology*
  • Pinus / microbiology*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / immunology
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Pollen / immunology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / complications
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / epidemiology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / immunology


  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Nitrogen Compounds
  • Plant Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Ozone