The Major Peanut Allergen Ara h 2 Produced in Nicotiana benthamiana Contains Hydroxyprolines and Is a Viable Alternative to the E. Coli Product in Allergy Diagnosis

Öykü Üzülmez, Tanja Kalic, Vanessa Mayr, Nina Lengger, Angelika Tscheppe, Christian Radauer, Christine Hafner, Wolfgang Hemmer, Heimo Breiteneder

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

5 Citations (Scopus)


Peanut allergy is a potentially life-threatening disease that is mediated by allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. The major peanut allergen Ara h 2, a 2S albumin seed storage protein, is one of the most dangerous and potent plant allergens. Ara h 2 is posttranslationally modified to harbor four disulfide bridges and three hydroxyprolines. These hydroxyproline residues are required for optimal IgE-binding to the DPYSPOHS motifs representing an immunodominant IgE epitope. So far, recombinant Ara h 2 has been produced in Escherichia coli, Lactococcus lactis, Trichoplusia ni insect cell, and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii chloroplast expression systems, which were all incapable of proline hydroxylation. However, molecular diagnosis of peanut allergy is performed using either natural or E. coli-produced major peanut allergens. As IgE from the majority of patients is directed to Ara h 2, it is of great importance that the recombinant Ara h 2 harbors all of its eukaryotic posttranslational modifications. We produced hydroxyproline-containing and correctly folded Ara h 2 in the endoplasmic reticulum of leaf cells of Nicotiana benthamiana plants, using the plant virus-based magnICON® transient expression system with a yield of 200 mg/kg fresh biomass. To compare prokaryotic with eukaryotic expression methods, Ara h 2 was expressed in E. coli together with the disulfide-bond isomerase DsbC and thus harbored disulfide bridges but no hydroxyprolines. The recombinant allergens from N. benthamiana and E. coli were characterized and compared to the natural Ara h 2 isolated from roasted peanuts. Natural Ara h 2 outperformed both recombinant proteins in IgE-binding and activation of basophils via IgE cross-linking, the latter indicating the potency of the allergen. Interestingly, significantly more efficient IgE cross-linking by the N. benthamiana-produced allergen was observed in comparison to the one induced by the E. coli product. Ara h 2 from N. benthamiana plants displayed a higher similarity to the natural allergen in terms of basophil activation due to the presence of hydroxyproline residues, supporting so far published data on their contribution to the immunodominant IgE epitope. Our study advocates the use of N. benthamiana plants instead of prokaryotic expression hosts for the production of the major peanut allergen Ara h 2.

Original languageEnglish
Article number723363
Pages (from-to)723363
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 04 Oct 2021


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