Forschungszentrum Borstel
Forschungszentrum Borstel

Priority Research Area Asthma and Allergy




Allergic inflammation to environmental agents (such as house dust mite or plant pollens) is considered an aberrant immune response to otherwise harmless factors. Hence, the elucidation of the chemical structure of biologically active and clinically important molecules is an essential foundation to understand its function and mode of action. Likewise, the identification of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of the immune system involved in the effector response to environmental agents, is critical to comprehend their pathologic inflammatory reaction.

The IgE-mediated immune response triggered against allergens (proteins) from pollen and house dust mite during atopic (allergic) asthma has been widely explored. However, proteins are not the sole components present in these allergenic agents. In the recent years, it has become more evident that the allergen sources are composed of variety of chemical structures, including lipids, that are delivered to the host together with allergens, thus influencing the course of allergic sensitization. Such molecules have different biological functions, e.g. in pollen grains are required for its hydration and germination. In addition, the existence of many allergens able to bind lipid species (e.g. Der p 5, Der p 7) suggests their presumably important function.

In contrast to peptides, which are recognized by conventional T cells when displayed on class I and II major histocompatibility complex molecules (MHC- I and -II); lipids are recognized by so-called unconventional CD1-restricted T cells, including Natural Killer T cells and γδ T cells.

The concept of the group is based on the hypothesis that lipid species influence the allergic sensitization, either leading to protection by the induction of tolerance; or to exacerbation of the established allergic reaction (see Figure).

Figure Allergobiochemistry


Therefore, it is necessary to explore the – to a large extent - unknown field of (glyco)-lipid containing substances in order to fully understand the mechanisms of reactions to allergenic molecules.