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Allergy. 2007 Jan;62(1):3-10. 

The impact of pollen-related food allergens on pollen allergy.

Department of Pathophysiology, Center for Physiology and Pathophysiology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.

Patients with birch pollen allergy frequently develop hypersensitivity reactions to certain foods, e.g. apples, celery, carrots and hazelnuts. These reactions are mainly caused by IgE-antibodies specific for the major birch pollen allergen, Bet v 1, which cross-react with homologous proteins in these foods. Analyzing the T-cell response to Bet v 1-related food allergens revealed that these dietary proteins contain several distinct T-cell epitopes and activate Bet v 1-specific T cells to proliferate and produce cytokines. Several of these cross-reactive T-cell epitopes were not destroyed by simulated gastrointestinal digestion of food allergens and stimulated Bet v 1-specific T cells despite nonreactivity with IgE antibodies. Similarly, cooked food allergens did not elicit IgE-mediated symptoms (oral allergy syndromes) but caused T-cell-mediated late-phase reactions (deterioration of atopic eczema) in birch pollen-allergic patients with atopic dermatitis because thermal processing affected their conformational structure and not the primary amino acid sequence. Thus, T-cell cross-reactivity between Bet v 1 and related food allergens occurs independently of IgE-cross-reactivity in vitro and in vivo. We speculate that symptom-free consumption of pollen-related food allergens may have implications for the pollen-specific immune response of allergic individuals.