Among food allergens, crustaceans, such as shrimp, crab, crawfish and lobster, are a frequent cause of adverse food reactions in allergic individuals. The major allergen has been identified as the muscle protein tropomyosin. This molecule belongs to a family of highly conserved proteins with multiple isoforms found in both muscle and nonmuscle cells of all species of vertebrates and invertebrates. Its native structure consists of two parallel alpha–helical tropomyosin molecules that are wound around each other forming a coiled–coil dimer. Allergenic tropomyosins are found in invertebrates such as crustaceans (shrimp, lobster, crab, crawfish), arachnids (house dust mites), insects (cockroaches), and mollusks (e.g. squid), whereas vertebrate tropomyosins are nonallergenic. Studies of cross–reactivities among crustaceans and the high degree of sequence identity among them suggest that tropomyosin is probably the common major allergen in crustaceans. Furthermore, immunological relationships between crustaceans, cockroaches and housedust mites have been established and may suggest tropomyosin as an important cross–sensitizing pan allergen.

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