Peanut defensins: Novel allergens isolated from lipophilic peanut extract

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Nov;136(5):1295-301.e1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2015.04.010. Epub 2015 May 30.


Background: Peanut is one of the most hazardous sources of food allergens. Unknown allergens are still hidden in the complex lipophilic matrix. These allergens need to be discovered to allow estimation of the allergenic risk for patients with peanut allergy and to further improve diagnostic measures.

Objective: We performed detection, isolation, and characterization of novel peanut allergens from lipophilic peanut extract.

Methods: Extraction of roasted peanuts were performed under defined extraction conditions and examined by means of 2-dimensional PAGE. Subsequently, chromatographic methods were adapted to isolate low-molecular-weight components. Proteins were studied by using SDS-PAGE and immunoblotting with sera from patients with peanut allergy. For allergen identification protein sequencing, homology search and mass spectrometry were applied. Functional characterization for allergenicity was performed by using the basophil activation assay and for antimicrobial activity by using inhibition assays of different bacteria and fungi.

Results: IgE-reactive proteins of 12, 11, and 10 kDa were first detected after chloroform/methanol extraction in the flow through of hydrophobic interaction chromatography. The proteins were able to activate basophils of patients with peanut allergy. N-terminal sequencing and homology search in the expressed sequence tag database identified the allergens as peanut defensins, which was confirmed by using mass spectrometry. On microbial cell cultures, the peanut defensins showed inhibitory effects on the mold strains of the genera Cladosporium and Alternaria but none on bacteria.

Conclusions: We identified defensins as novel peanut allergens (Ara h 12 and Ara h 13) that react in particular with IgE of patients with severe peanut allergy. Their antimicrobial activity is solely antifungal.

Keywords: Antifungal activity; Ara h 12; Ara h 13; food allergy; lipophilic extraction; peanut allergy; plant defensin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Allergens / isolation & purification
  • Alternaria / drug effects
  • Antifungal Agents / immunology
  • Antifungal Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology
  • Arachis / immunology*
  • Basophils / immunology*
  • Defensins / immunology*
  • Defensins / isolation & purification
  • Defensins / pharmacology
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Immunoglobulin E / metabolism
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Peanut Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Plant Extracts / immunology*
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Allergens
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Defensins
  • Plant Extracts
  • Immunoglobulin E