Background: We demonstrated recently that mite-allergic patients differed from healthy controls in the specificity of their IgG antibodies towards mite antigens.
Objective: The present study investigates whether these discriminatory IgG responses could be associated with the expression and the evolution of clinical manifestations in allergy to cow's milk proteins.
Methods: Antibody specificity was evaluated by comparing IgG-binding to native bovine beta-lactoglobulin (nBLG) and its products of pepsin hydrolysis (dBLG) using a solid-phase enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Antibody specificity was further investigated in competitive ELISA using streptavidin-biotin technology with purified IgG fractions from selected subjects and specific mouse monoclonals raised against BLG.
Results: IgG antibodies from CM-intolerant or allergic sera (n=222) showed a higher degree of binding to nBLG than to dBLG, while control sera showed similar levels to both nBLG and dBLG (n=99 children/65 adults). Sera from symptomatic patients, wether or not they contained IgE antibodies, demonstrated group-segregating capacities to compete with pooled purified IgG from each clinical class, and with selected murine anti-nBLG monoclonal antibodies for binding to n- and dBLG. Furthermore, this inhibitory capacity shifted dramatically in a small subset (n=14) of children as they developed CM-tolerance.
Conclusions: The IgG responses to BLG of CM-intolerant or allergic patients are very different from those of healthy controls, being characterized not only by increased titres but also similar patterns of modified specificity, including a marked preference for conformational epitopes. Cross-competition experiments confirmed that the restricted specificity was clinically associated, appearing as an immunological signature, which allowed almost complete discrimination between patient groups. This phenomenon is a particularly promising diagnostic feature in this category of young patients where conventional tests usually only document the status of sensitization.