Discovering and Analyzing a New Pepper Allergy Protein

Jim Crocker
1st April, 2024

Discovering and Analyzing a New Pepper Allergy Protein

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers in China identified a new allergen, Zan b 2, in Sichuan pepper seeds
  • Zan b 2 is part of the 11S globulin family, known for causing allergies in other foods
  • People allergic to Sichuan peppers may also react to citrus fruits, cashews, and pistachios
Allergies to certain foods can cause anything from mild discomfort to severe, life-threatening reactions. Understanding what specific components in foods trigger these allergic responses is crucial for developing better diagnostic tools and treatments. A team of researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China has recently made a significant contribution to this field by identifying a new allergen in Sichuan peppers[1]. Sichuan peppers, known for their unique tingling sensation and a staple in various cuisines, have now been linked to allergic reactions in some individuals. The study focused on isolating the proteins within Sichuan pepper seeds that could cause these reactions. Using sera from individuals with a known allergy to the pepper, the researchers employed a technique called Western blotting to pinpoint the allergenic proteins. They discovered a 55 kDa protein that elicited an IgE response—a type of antibody associated with allergic reactions. To understand this protein further, the researchers purified it using a combination of hydrophobic interaction chromatography and gel filtration. They then analyzed its structure and stability using methods such as analytical ultracentrifugation and circular dichroism spectroscopy. Mass spectrometry (MS), a powerful tool for identifying proteins, helped confirm the allergen's identity. The allergenic protein was found to belong to the 11S globulin family, a group of seed storage proteins previously noted for their allergenic potential in other plants[2]. The 11S globulin allergen from Sichuan peppers, now named Zan b 2, shares similarities with allergenic proteins found in citrus fruits and certain nuts like cashews and pistachios. This was demonstrated through tests that showed cross-reactivity, meaning that individuals allergic to Sichuan pepper might also react to these other foods. The cross-reactivity is particularly interesting because it suggests a common allergenic structure within these different foods, a finding that aligns with previous research on plant storage proteins[3]. The study's findings not only add a new allergen to the list of known food allergens but also highlight the importance of the 11S globulin family in food allergies. This is consistent with earlier research that identified 11S globulins as significant allergens in almonds[4]. The discovery of Zan b 2 emphasizes the need for further investigation into this family of proteins, especially given their widespread presence in various plant foods and their ability to cause cross-reactive allergic responses. The identification of Zan b 2 also has implications for understanding the molecular basis of allergies in general. The study from the University of Science and Technology of China offers insights into how certain protein structures are more likely to trigger an allergic response. This understanding could pave the way for better allergy diagnostics and treatments, as well as inform breeding programs for less allergenic varieties of Sichuan peppers[5]. In conclusion, the researchers have provided a clearer picture of the allergenic components in Sichuan peppers by identifying and characterizing the Zan b 2 protein. This work not only contributes to the broader understanding of food allergens but also has practical implications for allergy sufferers, potentially leading to improved management and prevention strategies for food allergies.

HealthBiotechPlant Science


Main Study

1) Identification, Characterization, Cloning, and Cross-Reactivity of Zan b 2, a Novel Pepper Allergen of 11S Legumin.

Published 29th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Plant protein families and their relationships to food allergy.

Journal: Biochemical Society transactions, Issue: Vol 30, Issue Pt 6, Nov 2002

3) Changes in Serum Protein-Peptide Patterns in Atopic Children Allergic to Plant Storage Proteins.

4) Cloning, expression and patient IgE reactivity of recombinant Pru du 6, an 11S globulin from almond.

5) Comparative Transcriptome Analysis and Expression of Genes Reveal the Biosynthesis and Accumulation Patterns of Key Flavonoids in Different Varieties of Zanthoxylum bungeanum Leaves.

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