Background: Oil body-associated allergens such as oleosins have been reported for important allergenic foods such as peanut, sesame and hazelnut. Here we investigate whether oil body associated proteins (OAPs) are linked with specific clinical phenotypes and whether they are represented in skin prick test (SPT) reagents.
Methods: A hazelnut OAP fraction was characterized by mass-spectrometry (MS) to identify its major constituents. Polyclonal rabbit antibodies were generated against hazelnut OAPs. The presence of OAPs in commercially available hazelnut SPTs was studied by immunoblot and spiking experiments. OAP-specific IgE antibodies were measured in sera from patients with a convincing history of hazelnut allergy by RAST (n = 91), immunoblot (n = 22) and basophil histamine release (BHR; n = 14).
Results: Hazelnut OAPs were analysed by MS and found to be dominated by oleosins at ~14 and ~17 kDa, and a 27 kDa band containing oleosin dimers and unidentified protein. In 36/91 sera specific IgE against hazelnut OAPs was detected, and confirmed to be biologically active by BHR (n = 14). The majority (21/22) recognized the oleosin bands at 17 kDa on immunoblot, of which 11 exclusively. These OAP-specific IgE responses dominated by oleosin were associated with systemic reactions to hazelnut (OR 4.24; p = 0.015) and negative SPT (χ2 6.3, p = 0.012). Immunoblot analysis using OAP-specific rabbit antiserum demonstrated that commercial SPT reagents are virtually devoid of OAPs, sometimes (3/9) resulting in false-negative SPT. Spiking of SPT reagents with OAP restored serum IgE binding of these false-negative patients on immunoblot at mainly 17 kDa.
Conclusion: Hazelnut allergens found in oil bodies dominated by oleosin are associated with more severe systemic reactions and negative SPT. Defatted diagnostic extracts are virtually devoid of these allergens, resulting in poor sensitivity for detection of IgE antibodies against these clinically relevant molecules.