J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Jan 2; [Epub ahead of print] 

Successful sublingual immunotherapy with birch pollen has limited effects on concomitant food allergy to apple and the immune response to the Bet v 1 homolog Mal d 1.

From the Department of Dermatology, Division of Immunology, Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

BACKGROUND: Cross-reactivity between the major birch pollen allergen, Bet v 1, and the apple protein, Mal d 1, frequently causes food allergy. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of successful sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) with birch pollen extract on apple allergy and the immune response to Bet v 1 and Mal d 1. METHODS: Before and after 1 year of SLIT, Bet v 1-sensitized patients with oral allergy syndrome to apple underwent nasal challenges with birch pollen and double-blind placebo-controlled food challenges with apple. Bet v 1-specific and Mal d 1-specific serum antibody levels and proliferation in PBMCs and allergen-specific T-cell lines (TCLs) were determined. Bet v 1-specific TCLs were mapped for T-cell epitopes. RESULTS: In 9 patients with improved nasal provocation scores to birch pollen, apple-induced oral allergy syndrome was not significantly reduced. Bet v 1-specific IgE and IgG(4) levels significantly increased. Bet v 1-specific T-cell responses to all epitopes and those cross-reactive with Mal d 1 significantly decreased. However, neither Mal d 1-specific IgE and IgG(4) levels nor Mal d 1-induced T-cell proliferation changed significantly. In contrast, Mal d 1-specific TCLs showed increased responses to Mal d 1 after 1 year of SLIT. CONCLUSION: This longitudinal study indicates that pollen SLIT does not efficiently alter the immune response to pollen-related food allergens, which may explain why pollen-associated food allergy is frequently not ameliorated by pollen immunotherapy even if respiratory symptoms significantly improve. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: SLIT with birch pollen may have no clinical effect on associated apple allergy.