Epigenetic Changes During Food-Specific Immunotherapy

  • Bryan J. Bunning
  • Rosemarie H. DeKruyff
  • Kari C. NadeauEmail author
Immunotherapy and Immunomodulators (B Vickery, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Immunotherapy and Immunomodulators


Purpose of Review

The prevalence and severity of IgE-mediated food allergy has increased dramatically over the last 15 years and is becoming a global health problem. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that epigenetic modifications of the genome resulting from gene-environment interactions have a key role in the increased prevalence of atopic disease. In this review, we describe the recent evidence suggesting how epigenetic changes mediate susceptibility to food allergies, and discuss how immunotherapy (IT) may reverse these effects. We discuss the areas of the epigenome as yet unexplored in terms of food allergy and IT such as histone modification and chromatin accessibility, and new techniques that may be utilized in future studies.

Recent Findings

Recent findings provide strong evidence that DNA methylation of certain promoter regions such as Forkhead box protein 3 is associated with clinical reactivity, and further, can be changed during IT treatment. Reports on other epigenetic changes are limited but also show evidence of significant change based on both disease status and treatment.


In comparison to epigenetic studies focusing on asthma and allergic rhinitis, food allergy remains understudied. However, within the next decade, it is likely that epigenetic modifications may be used as biomarkers to aid in diagnosis and treatment of food-allergic patients. DNA methylation at specific loci has shown associations between food challenge outcomes, successful desensitization treatment, and overall phenotype compared to healthy controls.


Food allergy Immunotherapy Epigenetics DNA methylation Atopy 



This work was supported by the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research, Stanford University School of Medicine (Bunning, DeKruyff, Nadeau) and by the National Institutes of Health Grants: PO1 AI-054456 (DeKruyff). Thank you to Vanitha Sampath and Ivan T. Lee for their help on the finalization of this review.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest relevant to this manuscript.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been noted as: • Of importance •• Of great importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bryan J. Bunning
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rosemarie H. DeKruyff
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kari C. Nadeau
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of MedicineStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma ResearchStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of MedicineStanford University, Stanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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