Two major water-insoluble proteins are located on the surface of rubber particles in Hevea brasiliensis latex. A 14.6 kd protein (Hev b 1), found mainly on large rubber particles (> 350 mm in diameter), and a 24 kd protein (Hev b 3), found mainly on small rubber particles (average diameter, 70 nm), are recognized by IgE from patients with spina bifida and latex allergy. Although Hev b 1 (also called the rubber elongation factor [REF]) has previously been reported as a major latex allergen, this conclusion has been disputed on the basis of results from other studies. The allergenicity of Hev b 1 is verified in this study by testing the recombinant protein generated from its gene. Because allergenicity is confined to patients with spina bifida and not observed in adults sensitive to latex, it is not a major latex allergen. The identification of Hev b 3 as another allergen originating from rubber particles is confirmed by immunogold labeling and electron microscopy. Observations with the monoclonal antibody USM/RC2 developed against Hev b 3 show that the protein has a tendency to fragment into several polypeptides of lower molecular weight (from 24 kd to about 5 kd) when stored at -20 degrees C. There is also indication of protein aggregation from the appearance of proteins with molecular weights greater than 24 kd. Fragmentation of Hev b 3 is induced immediately on he addition of latex B-serum, which is normally compartmentalized in the lutoids in fresh latex. In the preparation of ammoniated latex (used for the manufacture of latex products), the lutoids are ruptured, and the released B-serum reacts with Hev b 3 on the rubber particles to give rise to an array of low molecular weight polypeptides that are allergenic to patients with spina bifida.