Background: Recombinant allergens and especially their hypoallergenic variants are promising candidates for a more effective and safer specific immunotherapy. Methods: Physicochemical and immunological characteristics of a folding variant of recombinant Bet v 1 (rBet v 1-FV) were investigated in comparison to natural Bet v 1 (nBet v 1) and the correctly folded recombinant Bet v 1 (rBet v 1-WT) by SDS-PAGE, size exclusion chromatography, multi-angle light scattering, circular dichroism, immunoblotting and enzyme allergosorbent test inhibition assay for detection of IgE reactivity and ELISA with Bet v 1-specific monoclonal antibodies. The functional IgE reactivity of the different Bet v 1 proteins was investigated using basophil activation in terms of CD203c expression and histamine release. T cell reactivity was investigated using T cell lines raised from birch pollen-allergic subjects against nBet v 1. Immunogenicity was investigated in mice. Results: Physicochemical characterization revealed purity, homogeneity and monomeric properties of rBet v 1-FV. Unlike nBet v 1 and rBet v 1-WT, rBet v 1-FV showed almost no IgE binding in immunoblots. The reduction of allergenicity was further proved by IgE-binding inhibition assays, basophil activation and histamine release. T cell reactivity was completely conserved, as demonstrated by proliferation of Bet v 1-specific T cell lines with multiple epitope specificities. rBet v 1-FV showed strong immunogenicity in mice. Conclusions: Due to its reduced IgE reactivity and decreased capacity to activate basophils, but retained T cell reactivity and strong immunogenicity, rBet v 1-FV proved to be a very promising candidate for specific immunotherapy in birch pollen-allergic subjects.
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