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Antigenic cross-reactivity between Schistosoma mansoni and pollen allergens from the birch tree (Betula verrucosa) and Timothy grass (Phleum pratense): involvement of shared glycan epitopes and implications for the hygiene hypothesis

Igetei, Joseph E., El-Faham, Marwa, Liddell, Susan, Schramm, Gabriele, Doenhoff, Michael J.
International journal for parasitology 2018 v.48 no.5 pp. 345-357
Betula pendula subsp. pendula, Phleum pratense, Schistosoma mansoni, allergens, antibodies, cross reaction, eggs, epitopes, glutathione transferase, helminths, hygiene, hypersensitivity, immunoglobulin G, immunotherapy, invertebrates, mass spectrometry, patients, pollen, polysaccharides, rabbits, sequence analysis, trees
Previous studies have shown that schistosome infection can protect against allergic symptoms, but the underlying mechanisms are still not fully understood. Here we have shown that rabbit IgG antibodies raised against Schistosoma mansoni soluble egg antigens (SmSEA) are cross-reactive with a wide array of molecules in Timothy grass pollen (TGP) and birch tree pollen (BTP). Five of the cross-reactive pollen molecules (two from TGP and three from BTP) were selected randomly and identified by tandem mass spectrometric (TMS) analysis to be, respectively, the TGP allergens Phl p 1 and Phl p 5b, and BTP glutathione S-transferase (GST), and the BTP allergens Bet v 1 and Bet v 6.0102. Rabbit anti-SmSEA IgG antibodies that cross-reacted with each of the five allergens were found to be reactive with three major S. mansoni egg antigens, IPSE/alpha-1, omega-1 and kappa-5. Pairwise alignment of the amino acid sequences of each of the five TMS-identified pollen allergens with each of the three egg antigens revealed a low level of amino acid sequence identity. Further experiments indicated that the schistosome antigen/allergen cross-reactivity was mostly due to similar glycans present in helminths and plants, but not in mammals: so called cross-reactive carbohydrate determinants (CCDs). Previously, CCDs have been implicated in the cross-reactivity between many plants and invertebrates. Furthermore, pollen-induced anti-CCD IgGs have been found in sera of patients undergoing allergen-specific immunotherapy (SIT) and implicated in the treatment of the allergy. Thus, our finding provides not only possible explanations for the allergy-protective effect of helminth/schistosome infections as explained by the hygiene hypothesis, but also a potential starting point for improved SIT.