Molecular Aspects of Allergens and Allergy

Adv Immunol. 2018:138:195-256. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2018 Apr 26.


Immunoglobulin E (IgE)-associated allergy is the most common immune disorder. More than 30% of the population suffer from symptoms of allergy which are often severe, disabling, and life threatening such as asthma and anaphylaxis. Population-based birth cohort studies show that up to 60% of the world population exhibit IgE sensitization to allergens, of which most are protein antigens. Thirty years ago the first allergen-encoding cDNAs have been isolated. In the meantime, the structures of most of the allergens relevant for disease in humans have been solved. Here we provide an update regarding what has been learned through the use of defined allergen molecules (i.e., molecular allergology) and about mechanisms of allergic disease in humans. We focus on new insights gained regarding the process of sensitization to allergens, allergen-specific secondary immune responses, and mechanisms underlying allergic inflammation and discuss open questions. We then show how molecular forms of diagnosis and specific immunotherapy are currently revolutionizing diagnosis and treatment of allergic patients and how allergen-specific approaches may be used for the preventive eradication of allergy.

Keywords: Allergen; Allergy; Immunoglobulin E; Molecular allergology; Recombinant allergen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Hypersensitivity / therapy
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology*
  • Immunotherapy / methods


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E