Food allergy is a global health problem with significant impacts on the community, especially in Western countries. Fruit allergy, in particular, has a considerable relevance as the avoidance of some fruits or other cross-reactive vegetables often results in an unbalanced diet. Among fruit allergens, non-specific Lipid Transfer Proteins (nsLTPs) are small, basic proteins that can cause severe, potentially lifethreatening, systemic reactions. Their compact and stable three-dimensional structure, due to the 4 disulphide bonds, makes them highly resistant to degradation, allowing them to reach the gut only slightly modified and induce severe systemic reactions in sensitised individuals.
Several efforts have been made for the identification and subsequent physic-chemical, biochemical and immunological characterisation of nsLTPs. However, the protein structure by itself does not full justify the allergen’s ability to produce an immuno-response and other factors must be taken into consideration, such as the immune-modulating properties of both food matrix interactions and post-translational modifications (PTMs), as well as their effects on the allergen structure. Notably, there is a lack of knowledge about the impact of such interactions/modifications on nsLTPs.
The aim of the present proposal is to shed light on this important aspect of nsLTPs allergenicity, studying apple as model food and using a multidisciplinary approach. Specific objectives are to investigate both the effects of selected fruit matrix components (1) and PTMs (2) on Mal d 3 allergenicity, and to perform detailed studies on the Mal d 3 structure by computational methods, including crystallisation trials of Mal d 3 (3).
The expected findings will reveal the importance of factors that are currently undervalued regarding allergenic risk assessment. In addition, this proposal contemplates many aspects of education and training for the fellow and thus provides a further step in her academic career.
Fields of science
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