Background: Lipid transfer proteins (LTPs) are relevant fruit allergens, recently proposed as model plant food allergens. No citrus fruit allergen has been characterized to date. We sought to identify and isolate citrus fruit LTPs and to explore their relevance in orange allergy. Methods: Twenty-seven patients, showing mainly oral allergy syndrome after orange ingestion, as well as positive prick responses and serum-specific IgE levels to orange, were selected. Natural orange and lemon LTPs, as well as a recombinant orange LTP isoform expressed in Pichia pastoris, were isolated by chromatographic methods and characterized by N-terminal amino acid sequencing and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionizaion mass spectrometry, and DNA sequencing of the corresponding cDNA in the case of the recombinant allergen. Specific IgE determination, immunodetection, ELISA-inhibition assays and in vivo skin prick tests (SPTs) were performed with all three purified allergens and with the major peach LTP allergen, Pru p 3. Results: The natural allergens purified from orange (nCit s 3) and lemon (nCit l 3) showed very similar N-terminal amino acid sequences (18 out of 20 identical residues), typical of LTPs, and molecular masses of 9,610 and 9,618 Da, respectively. The recombinant orange isoform (rCit s 3) expressed in P. pastoris (16 out of 20 residues identical to its natural counterpart in the N-terminal region) presented 92 amino acid residues and 9,463 Da, and 67% sequence identity with rPru p 3. Of the 27 sera analyzed, specific IgE to the purified allergens was found in 54% for nCit l 3, 48% for nCit s 3, 46% for rCit s 3 and 37% for rPru p 3. Positive SPT responses were obtained in 7 out of 26 patients tested for nCit s 3, 3 out of 8 for nCit l 3 and 10 out of 26 for nPru p 3. ELISA-inhibition assays showed an equivalent IgE-binding pattern for the natural and recombinant orange LTPs, and IgE cross-reactivity among the purified orange, lemon and peach LTP allergens. Conclusions: Members of the LTP allergen family are involved in allergy to oranges, displaying positive in vitro and in vivo reactions in 30–50% of the patients studied. Both orange and lemon allergens show cross-reactivity with the major peach allergen Pru p 3.

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