Background: Macadamia nut can induce fatal allergic reactions and changes in dietary habits will raise their consumption in industrialised countries. Until now diagnosis of macadamia nut allergy by sIgE solely relies on the macadamia nut extract, but single components are lacking.
Methods: Macadamia nut proteins recognised by IgE from 2 macadamia nut extract positive sera were identified by mass spectrometry (vicilin-like antimicrobial peptides: VLAP). Sensitisation to macadamia nut extract and heterologously expressed isoform VLAP-2-3 was evaluated in 82 nut allergic (NA) and 27 tolerant (NT) patients (no tree nut allergy reported) comprehending 10 macadamia nut allergic (MA) and 18 explicitly reported macadamia nut tolerant patients (MT), using line blots. Co-sensitisation to additional VLAP isoforms and other vicilins was evaluated in 8 MA, 12 MT and 14 NA patients sensitised to VLAP-2-3. Functional properties were determined by indirect basophil activation.
Results: Even though proteins recognised by IgE were identified as VLAP-2-1, 2-2 and 2-3, only peptides specifically belonging to VLAP-2-3 were detected by mass spectrometry. The macadamia nut extract was recognised by 33% of NA patients (27/82) including 3 MA patients and 26% of NT patients (7/27, 3 MT). Similarly, 29% of NA (24/82) patients showed partly strong sIgE-binding to VLAP-2-3 including 3 MA patients with systemic reactions to macadamia nut. Contrary, VLAP-2-3 was recognised by only 2 NT (1 MT) patients (7%) with very low sIgE titres. Simultaneous recognition of the isoforms VLAP-2-1 and 2-2 was observed in all patients positive for VLAP-2-3 with partly reduced sIgE titres in 59% of these patients. Additionally, all three VLAP isoforms were able to repeatedly induce BAT reactivity upon sensitisation with a MA serum.
Conclusion: VLAP proteins are the first described macadamia nut components with serological and functional allergenic properties and they are associated with systemic reactions to macadamia nut.
Keywords: 7S globulin; Food allergy; IgE-binding; Macadamia nut; Vicilin.