This research project aims to determine whether structural features of proteins affect their allergenicity.
Allergens found in plants can be grouped into 19 protein families.
<p>This suggests that the proteins capable of causing allergic reactions might share common features. It is possible that particular structural features could account for the high stability to digestion (i.e. proteolytic stability) of many food allergens, and that such stability might be involved in sensitisation or reaction to these allergens.
<p>This project aims to determine whether structural features of proteins affect their allergenicity.
<p>Two members of the 2S albumin family of proteins will be used in this study; Ber e 1, an allergen found in Brazil nuts, and SFA8, a widely consumed protein from sunflower seed, not yet implicated as a major allergen.
<p>Parts of the Ber e 1 protein will be recombined with the SFA8 protein in order to determine which specific parts of the Ber e 1 protein confer allergenicity.
Ber e 1 and SFA8 will be produced by genetically modified yeast. The two proteins will also be prepared from brazil nuts and sunflower seeds using conventional protein purification techniques.
<p>The proteolytic stability of the proteins will be determined by digestion in simulated gastric fluid. The allergenicity of the proteins will be investigated using an experimental model system. In addition, the structure, thermal stability and chemical stability of the proteins will be assessed.
<p>The yeast will also be genetically modified to produce hybrid proteins in which regions of the SFA8 protein have been replaced by the equivalent region of Ber e 1. The region of Ber e 1 responsible for inducing an allergic reaction will be identified by exposing the hybrid proteins to sera from brazil nut allergic subjects.
<p>The sera is likely to contain IgE antibodies capable of recognising the allergenic region.
<p>Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="http://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/" target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.