Research Student Profile: Lena Soo

Project Title: Cross-reactivity between lupin and peanut allergens

Project Overview

With the increasing use of lupin in dietary products, lupin allergy has become a matter that needs to be addressed.

A recent study identified one of the seed storage proteins, conglutin β, as the major allergen responsible for individuals with allergy to lupin but not peanut, but was unable to characterise all the proteins to which these individuals reacted. Further study has also suggested that conglutin α and perhaps conglutin γ might be potential allergens for people allergic to both lupin and peanut; and that conglutin α shares similar epitopes with a peanut allergen.

peanut allergens

"However the molecular basis of this cross-reactivity has yet to be determined. Moreover, individuals who are sensitised to lupin but do not react clinically also have IgE in their serum that recognises these proteins. This raises the question of whether IgE binding to conglutin α and γ is clinically significant and also what determines whether individuals who are sensitised to lupin react clinically.

My project aims to identify the seed storage proteins of lupin seed that are responsible for inducing the cross-reactivity between lupin and peanut; characterising the epitopes and deciding whether they are of clinical importance as well as to identify novel potential allergens.

To achieve my aims, recombinant proteins of each of the potential allergens will be expressed in vitro and probed with IgE of sensitized individuals to determine the allergenicity of these proteins. Inhibition assays will then be used to determine whether there is cross-reactivity between these proteins and peanut allergens. After identifying a specific protein/s as responsible for causing cross-reactivity, site-directed mutagenesis will be applied to investigate the regions of the protein that cause the reaction, i.e. the epitopes.

A proteomics study will also be used to further characterise the identified allergens and to uncover new ones.

Findings from this work will contribute to the understanding of lupin allergy and the cross-reactivity between lupin and peanut allergens (and possibly other legumes. It will also assist in developing a more accurate clinical test for lupin allergy.

Background

I am a Malaysian student currently doing my M.Sc (Research) under the supervision of Dr. Penelope Smith and Prof. David Day at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney.

I completed my B.Sc (Hons) with first class honours at the National University of Malaysia in August 2008 and was awarded the University Book Prize for being the highest achiever in my degree program.

I have been granted the University of Sydney International Scholarship at the beginning of 2009 to pursue my current degree at the university.

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