Biochemical and clinical studies of putative allergens to assess what distinguishes them from other non-allergenic proteins in the same family

Kevin C. Glenn, Andre Silvanovich, Soon Goo Lee, Aron Allen, Stephanie Park, S. Eliza Dunn, Colton Kessenich, Chen Meng, John L. Vicini, Joseph M. Jez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many protein families have numerous members listed in databases as allergens; however, some allergen database entries, herein called “orphan allergens”, are members of large families of which all other members are not allergens. These orphan allergens provide an opportunity to assess whether specific structural features render a protein allergenic. Three orphan allergens [Cladosporium herbarum aldehyde dehydrogenase (ChALDH), Alternaria alternata ALDH (AaALDH), and C. herbarum mannitol dehydrogenase (ChMDH)] were recombinantly produced and purified for structure characterization and for clinical skin prick testing (SPT) in mold allergic participants. Examination of the X-ray crystal structures of ChALDH and ChMDH and a homology structure model of AaALDH did not identify any discernable epitopes that distinguish these putative orphan allergens from their non-allergenic protein relatives. SPT results were aligned with ChMDH being an allergen, 53% of the participants were SPT (+). AaALDH did not elicit SPT reactivity above control proteins not in allergen databases (i.e., Psedomonas syringae indole-3-acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and Zea mays ALDH). Although published results showed consequential human IgE reactivity with ChALDH, no SPT reactivity was observed in this study. With only one of these three orphan allergens, ChMDH, eliciting SPT(+) reactions consistent with the protein being included in allergen databases, this underscores the complicated nature of how bioinformatics is used to assess the potential allergenicity of food proteins that could be newly added to human diets and, when needed, the subsequent clinical testing of that bioinformatic assessment. Trial registration number and date of registration AAC-2017-0467, approved as WIRB protocol #20172536 on 07DEC2017 by WIRB-Copernicus (OHRP/FDA Registration #: IRB00000533, organization #: IORG0000432).

Original languageEnglish
JournalTransgenic Research
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Allergen
  • Protein family
  • Protein structure
  • Skin prick test


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