Background: In a recent murine study, we showed that impaired gastric digestion supports the induction of fish allergy by protecting the digestion-sensitive major allergen parvalbumin and thus enhancing its sensitizing properties. Objective: The aim of the present study was to investigate whether impairment of peptic degradation might also play a role in the effector phase of codfish allergy. Methods: The resistance of cod proteins to digestion by simulated gastric fluid was assessed in vitro. Gastric solutions with pH values ranging from 1.25 to 5.0 were prepared, and the influence of the pH on protein degradation was evaluated by means of SDS-PAGE and IgE immunoblotting. The allergenic potency of digested and undigested cod extract was further characterized in RAST inhibition and basophil histamine release experiments. Results: The digestion experiments revealed that codfish proteins were degraded within 1 minute under physiologic gastric conditions. An only marginal pH shift from 2.5 to 2.75 abrogated completely the digestion of cod allergens. In RAST inhibition experiments digested cod extracts showed a reduced IgE-binding capability that was dependent on the digestion time. Moreover, peptic fragments expressed a 10,000 times reduced allergenic potency, as evaluated on the basis of histamine release from human basophils. Conclusion: Codfish allergens have a grossly reduced ability to trigger an intestinal allergic reaction when they are physiologically degraded. Impairment of the physiologic digestion might thus lower the threshold levels of a food allergen in sensitized patients.
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