Pollen Proteases Play Multiple Roles in Allergic Disorders

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 May 19;21(10):3578. doi: 10.3390/ijms21103578.


Allergic diseases are a major health concern worldwide. Pollens are important triggers for allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis and asthma. Proteases released upon pollen grain hydration appear to play a major role in the typical immunological and inflammatory responses that occur in patients with allergic disorders. In this study, we aimed to identify specific proteolytic activity in a set of pollens with diverse allergenic potential. Diffusates from Chenopodium album, Plantago lanceolata and Eucalyptus globulus were added to a confluent monolayer of Calu-3 cells grown in an air-liquid interface system. We identified serine proteases and metalloproteinases in all pollen diffusates investigated. Proteases found in these pollen diffusates were shown to compromise the integrity of the lung epithelial barrier by disrupting transmembrane adhesion proteins E-cadherin, claudin-1 and Occludin, as well as, the cytosolic complex zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) resulting in a time-dependent increase in transepithelial permeability. Tight junction disruption and increased transepithelial permeability facilitates allergen exposure to epithelial sub-layers contributing to the sensitization to a wide range of allergens. These pollen extracts also induced an increase in the release of interleukin 6 (IL-6) and interleukin 8 (IL-8) cytokines measured by flow cytometry possibly as a result of the activation of protease-activated receptors 2 (PAR-2).

Keywords: IL-6; IL-8 and PAR-2; allergy; pollen proteases; transepithelial permeability.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Chenopodium / enzymology
  • Eucalyptus / enzymology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / enzymology*
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Peptide Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Plantago / enzymology
  • Pollen / enzymology*
  • Receptor, PAR-2 / metabolism
  • Water


  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • Receptor, PAR-2
  • Water
  • Peptide Hydrolases