International archives of allergy and immunology

Profilins: mimickers of allergy or relevant allergens?

PMID 21293140


Profilins are ubiquitous proteins, present in all eukaryotic cells and identified as allergens in pollen, latex and plant foods. The highly conserved structure justifies the cross-reactive nature of IgE antibodies against plant profilins and their designation as pan-allergens. Primary sensitization to profilin seems to arise from pollen sensitization with later development of cross-reactive IgE antibodies against plant food (and possibly latex) profilins. The role of profilin in inducing allergic symptoms needs to be evaluated and raises important issues in allergy diagnosis due to cross-reactivity. IgE cross-reactivity among profilins is associated with multiple pollen sensitization and with various pollen-food syndromes. In respiratory allergy, sensitization to pollen to which the patient has virtually no environmental exposure has been identified as a manifestation of profilin sensitization. As a food allergen, profilin usually elicits mild reactions, such as oral allergy syndrome, is not modified by processing and is especially important in allergy to some fruits, such as melon, watermelon, banana, tomato, citrus fruit and persimmon. Purified natural and recombinant profilins for in vitro and in vivo allergy tests are helpful in the diagnostic work-up. Herein we review the current state of knowledge about the allergen profilin and its implications in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases. We conclude that, although its role in triggering allergic symptoms is still controversial, profilin is undoubtedly a relevant allergen. As a pan-allergen, profilin is associated with multiple pollen sensitization and pollen-food-latex syndromes that the allergist has to be aware of in order to accomplish an accurate diagnosis and successful treatment of allergic diseases.