Characterization of antibody responses induced in rodents by exposure to food proteins: Influence of route of exposure

R. J. Dearman, H. Caddick, S. Stone, D. A. Basketter, I. Kimber

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    There is a growing interest in the development of methods to characterize the allergenic properties of novel proteins, particularly those expressed by transgenic crop plants. Approaches to the direct evaluation of allergenic potential have focused generally on the ability of proteins to induce antibody (particularly IgE antibody) after systemic (intraperitoneal; i.p.) or gavage administration to high IgE responder strain rodents. To date there has been no systematic comparison of the reliability, sensitivity or selectivity of these approaches. We have, therefore, compared antibody (IgG and IgE) responses induced in Brown Norway (BN) rats by daily gavage administration and in BALB/c strain mice following intraperitoneal or gavage exposure to food proteins of varying allergenic potential. Animals were exposed to the allergens peanut agglutinin and ovalbumin (OVA) or to a crude potato protein extract (PPE) containing acid phosphatase activity, a common foodstuff which appears to be of low allergenicity. All test proteins were clearly immunogenic when administered by gavage to BN rats, with measurable, and in some cases very vigorous, IgG antibody responses recorded for all animals. Identical exposure of BALB/c strain mice also stimulated detectable IgG antibody responses, with particularly high titers recorded following treatment with peanut agglutinin and somewhat less vigorous responses induced by OVA and PPE. Despite these high titer IgG antibody responses, however, none of the proteins provoked detectable IgE antibody following gavage administration to BN rats. In contrast, in BALB/c mice oral exposure to peanut agglutinin elicited high titer IgE antibody, although IgE antibody responses to both OVA and PPE were much weaker. Parenteral (i.p.) treatment of BALB/c strain mice with each of the test materials induced relatively high titer IgG antibody and a differential potential to stimulate IgE antibody was observed. High titer IgE responses were provoked by i.p. administration of peanut agglutinin and OVA, whereas PPE stimulated little or no detectable IgE antibody. It would appear, therefore, that while it is possible to elicit robust IgE responses by gavage exposure of BALB/c strain mice to some protein allergens, such as peanut agglutinin, such responses are generally weaker and less consistent than those provoked by i.p. administration. Furthermore, gavage treatment failed to induce detectable IgE responses in the BN rat, suggesting that the ability these animals to mount IgE responses is somewhat variable. Following i.p. administration to BALB/c strain mice, these proteins displayed immunological properties consistent with what is known of their allergenic potential in humans, suggesting that, following further evaluation with a wider range of proteins, this method may provide one approach to the identification of potential protein allergens. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)217-231
    Number of pages14
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2001


    • IgE
    • IgG
    • Oral exposure
    • Predictive testing
    • Protein allergenicity
    • Systemic exposure


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