Allergy against birch pollen is among the most common causes of spring pollinosis in Europe and is diagnosed and treated using extracts from natural sources. Quality control is crucial for safe and effective diagnosis and treatment. However, current methods are very difficult to standardize and do not address individual allergen or isoallergen composition. MS provides information regarding selected proteins or the entire proteome and could overcome the aforementioned limitations. We studied the proteome of birch pollen, focusing on allergens and iso-allergens, to clarify which of the 93 published sequence variants of the major allergen, Bet v 1, are expressed as proteins within one source material in parallel. The unexpectedly complex Bet v 1 isoallergen composition required manual data interpretation and a specific design of databases, as current database search engines fail to unambiguously assign spectra to highly homologous, partially identical proteins. We identified 47 non-allergenic proteins and all 5 known birch pollen allergens, and unambiguously proved the existence of 18 Bet v 1 iso-allergens and variants by manual data analysis. This highly complex isoallergen composition raises questions whether isoallergens can be ignored or must be included for the quality control of allergen products, and which data analysis strategies are to be applied.
Spiric, J., Engin, A. M., Karas, M., & Reuter, A. (2015). Quality control of biomedicinal allergen products - Highly complex isoallergen composition challenges standard MS database search and requires manual data analyses. PLoS ONE, 10(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0142404