Allergens from Brazil nut: immunochemical characterization.

Abstract

The increase in the consumption of tropical nuts in the Northern Hemisphere during the last years, has evolved in a simultaneous enhancement of allergic IgE mediated (Hypersensitivity type 1) reported cases produced by this kind of food. The Brazil nut is the seed of the Bertholletia excelsa tree (Family Lecythidaceae) and, as in other seeds, proteins represent one of its major components making up 15-17% of its fresh weight and 50% of defatted flour. Of these, storage proteins are the most important ones, and the 12 S globulin legumin-like protein and the 2 S albumin have been described as the most representative. The 2 S protein, due to its high sulfur-rich amino acid content (3% cysteine and 18% methionine), is being studied, cloned and expressed in some important agronomic seeds (soybean, bean, oilseed rape) in order to enrich the nutritional quality of them. The case of a patient with serious clinical allergic symptoms (vomiting, diarrhoea and loss of consciousness) caused by oral contact with the Brazil nut, is presented. The patient gave a positive Skin Prick Test response to Brazil nut, kiwi and hazelnut extracts, and negative to regionally specific aeroallergens and other food extracts. The patient serum showed a high level of specific IgE by RAST to Brazil nut (> 17.5 PRU/ml, Class 4), and significative levels to hazelnut, and mustard. In vitro immunological studies (SDS-Immunoblotting and IEF-Immunoblotting) revealed IgE-binding proteins present in the extract. It was shown that not only the heavy (Mr 9) and light (Mr 4) subunits of the known allergenic 2 S albumin but also the alpha-subunits (Mr approximately 33.5 and 32) and at least one of the beta-subunits (Mr approximately 21) of the 12 S Brazil nut globulin, hitherto never involved in allergic problems, showed a strong IgE-binding capacity.

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