Characterization of allergic effects induced by a Penicillium chrysogenum conidia-asssociated allergen in a murine model
Schwab, Christopher Jay
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Sick building syndrome (SBS) and allergic asthma have been dramatically increasing since the 1970s in developed nations. SBS describes various symptoms resulting from indoor air quality (lAQ) problems, including allergic rhinitis, headaches, itchy eyes, and tightness of the chest. Several studies have reported the association of damp buildings as well as the presence of molds with cases of asthma and other respiratory symptoms, including SBS-related complaints. Recent evidence by our laboratory has shown the association of SBS with the presence of certain strains of fungi, especially Penicillium chrysogenum, and viable P. chrysogenum conidia or spores were shown to induce allergic inflammation when introduced into mice. Further research was needed to define the effects of fungal spores from sick buildings on the immune system. Other researchers have characterized allergens from P. chrysogenum and related fungi, however, these allergens were isolated from whole cell cultures and not from spores. The goals of this study were to extract allergens from viable P. chrysogenum spores and characterize allergic effects induced by those allergen extracts using a murine model. As a result of this study, we present evidence that viable P. chrysogenum spores secrete previously uncharacterized allergens with proteolytic activity. These spore-associated protease extracts, which we have designated Pen ch, induced allergic effects in a murine model in this study. C57BL/6 mice sensitized to and challenged with the protease extract produced high levels of IgE and IgG1 specific to the protease allergens and spores from the organism. Mice sensitized to the protease extracts also developed perivascular eosinophilia of the airways that was associated with significant production of eotaxin. In addition, protease extract-sensitized mice developed hyperplasia of mucus producing cells in the airways as well as perivascular inflammation by neutrophils. The data presented m this study indicate that chronic exposure and sensitization to protease allergens released by viable P. chrysogenum spores in vivo induces a strong allergic inflammatory response m a murine model. In buildings contaminated with high levels of P. chrysogenum spores, allergic symptoms occurring m individuals could be the result of inhalation of viable P. chrysogenum spores due to sensitization to the protease allergens characterized in this study. The results of this study should lead to further studies regarding the mechanism of allergic effects induced by P. chrysogenum spore-associated protease allergens and the development of treatment options for people exposed to these allergens.