Background: Worldwide, pollen of the weed mugwort (Artemisiavulgaris) is a major cause of severe respiratory allergy, with its major allergen, Art v 1, being the key pathogenic molecule for millions of patients. Humanized mice transgenic for a human T-cell receptor specific for the major Art v 1 T-cell epitope and the corresponding HLA have been made.
Objective: We sought to characterize IgE epitopes of Art v 1-sensitized patients and humanized mice for molecular immunotherapy of mugwort allergy.
Methods: Four overlapping peptides incorporating surface-exposed amino acids representing the full-length Art v 1 sequence were synthesized and used to search for IgE reactivity to sequential epitopes. For indirect mapping, peptide-specific rabbit antibodies were raised to block IgE against surface-exposed epitopes on folded Art v 1. IgE reactivity and basophil activation studies were performed in clinically defined mugwort-allergic patients. Secondary structure of recombinant (r) Art v 1 and peptides was determined by circular dichroism spectroscopy.
Results: Mugwort-allergic patients and humanized mice sensitized by allergen inhalation showed IgE reactivity and/or basophil activation mainly to folded, complete Art v 1 but not to unfolded, sequential peptide epitopes. Blocking of allergic patients' IgE with peptide-specific rabbit antisera identified a hitherto unknown major conformational IgE binding site in the C-terminal Art v 1 domain.
Conclusions: Identification of the new major conformational IgE binding site on Art v 1, which can be blocked with IgG raised against non-IgE reactive Art v 1 peptides, is an important basis for the development of a hypoallergenic peptide vaccine for mugwort allergy.
Keywords: Allergy; Art v 1; IgE epitope; allergen; allergen-specific immunotherapy; epitope mapping; mugwort pollen allergy.
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