Food Allergen Epitopes
Food allergens can trigger the immune system of predisposed individuals towards the development of food allergy symptoms. However, the whole allergen is not involved in the immune response; only its epitopes, which are recognized by a T-cell receptor or an IgE-antibody, contribute to allergic reactions. Thus, identification and characterization of food allergen epitopes can help to better understand food allergies. Historically, linear or continuous and conformational or discontinuous epitopes are defined as two types of epitopes. The terms T-cell epitopes or B-cell epitopes are frequently used. Due to the application of advanced molecular technologies in immunology, food allergen epitopes can be identified and characterized, which can play an important role in the prediction of allergenicity, the definition of cross-reactivity, allergy diagnosis and immuno- therapy. Currently, B-cell epitope mapping is carried out by using enzymatic and chemical cleavage, production of synthetic peptides in various formats, structure resolution via NMR and X-ray crystal diffraction, biological chip technology and by the application of predictive algorithms. Identification of T-cell epitopes and their mapping on the allergen can be achieved by using proliferation assays, flow cytometry, and enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assays. Nevertheless, investigations into the role of food allergen epitopes are ongoing, in particular with regard to the conformational epitopes.
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