Prevalence of sensitization to Cannabis sativa. Lipid-transfer and thaumatin-like proteins are relevant allergens

Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2013;162(2):115-22. doi: 10.1159/000351068. Epub 2013 Jul 31.


Background: Although allergy to Cannabis sativa was first reported over 40 years ago, the allergenicity has scarcely been studied. The objectives of this study were to investigate the frequency of sensitization to this plant, to analyze the clinical characteristics and allergenic profile of sensitized individuals and to identify the allergens involved.

Methods: Five hundred and forty-five individuals in Spain attending allergy clinics with respiratory or cutaneous symptoms underwent a skin-prick test (SPT) with C. sativa leaf extract. The extract was characterized by SDS-PAGE and 2-dimensional electrophoresis. Specific IgE to C. sativa was measured in positive SPT individuals. The clinical and allergenic profiles of sensitized individuals were investigated and the most-recognized allergens sequenced and characterized by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry.

Results: Of this preselected population, 44 individuals had positive SPT to C. sativa (prevalence 8.1%). Prevalence was higher in individuals who were C. sativa smokers (14.6%). Two individuals reported mild symptoms with C. sativa. Twenty-one individuals from 32 available sera (65.6%) had positive specific IgE to C. sativa. Twelve sera recognized at least 6 different bands in a molecular-weight range of between 10 and 60 kDa. Six of them recognized a 10-kDa band, identified as a lipid transfer protein (LTP) and 8 recognized a 38-kDa band, identified as a thaumatin-like protein.

Conclusions: There is a high prevalence of sensitization to C. sativa leaves. The clinical symptoms directly attributed to C. sativa were uncommon and mild. The sensitization profile observed suggests that C. sativa sensitization may be mediated by two mechanisms, i.e. cross-reactivity, mainly with LTP and thaumatin-like protein, and exposure-related 'de novo' sensitization.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / chemistry
  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antigens, Plant / immunology*
  • Cannabis / immunology*
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Male
  • Peptide Fragments / analysis
  • Peptide Fragments / immunology
  • Plant Extracts / immunology
  • Plant Leaves / immunology
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / immunology*
  • Skin Tests


  • Allergens
  • Antigens, Plant
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Proteins
  • lipid transfer protein
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • thaumatin protein, plant