Project 03

Karin Hoffmann-Sommergruber, Dept. of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research, Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology, Medical University of Vienna.

Project 03: Structure function relationship of food allergens: Towards novel therapeutic and prophylactic concepts for food allergy.

Karin Hoffmann-Sommergruber has been working in the field of allergen characterization with a special interest in their biology and in plant food allergens for approximately 20 years. She has received a Hertha Firnberg Award of the FWF in her early career and co-ordinated several successful EU programs. Within this SFB she wants to characterize important plant food allergens and to develop preventive and therapeutic strategies for plant food allergy. A considerable number of food allergen protein families have been characterised in the recent past. However, the intrinsic factors of these proteins and how they interact with the epithelial immune system and thus modulate the immune response is still unknown. Therefore, the applicant wants to study intrinsic properties of food allergens which may determine their allergenicity as well as the potential immunomodulating effect of certain food compounds such as lipids, lipopolysaccharides and carbohydrates. Understanding the individual steps and factors relevant for the allergen/food antigen - immune system interaction should allow to develop efficient tolerance induction strategies for the allergic patient and to improve prevention strategies to reduce the risk of allergen exposure. The project will use well defined food allergens (non specific lipid transfer proteins, 2S albumins) with a high potential to induce severe symptoms in patients to study their physicochemical characteristics. Food matrices typical for fruits and nuts will be produced and certain fractions with immunoactive compounds identified. Cellular systems (basophil release assay, dendritic cells, T-cells) and a murine animal model will be used to study the sensitization potential of individual allergens with and without food matrix components. Factors influencing allergen levels in plant food will be determined and novel highly sensitive allergen specific detection assays established. These data will contribute to identify marker allergens for certain plant food allergies and their level of cross-reactivity, to design allergen molecules with reduced allergenicity for vaccine development, and to identify relevant immunoactive food compounds. For preventive measures in food allergy novel allergen detection assays will contribute to food safety aspects and information on agronomic practices relevant to control allergen levels in plant food. Finally, reliable and robust cellular and animal models will be provided for detailed studies on the allergic immune response.


karin-hoffmannKarin Hoffmann-Sommergruber, PhD, Assoc. Prof.
Dept. of Pathophysiology and Allergy Research
Medical University of Vienna
Waehringer Guertel 18-20
A-1090 Vienna, Austria
fax: +43 1 40400 51300
tel: +43 1 40400 51040
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Alessandri, S., A. Sancho, S. Vieths, E.N.C. Mills, JM. Wal, P.R. Shewry, N. Rigby, K. Hoffmann-Sommergruber. 2012. High-throughput NMR Assessment of the Tertiary Structure of Food Allergens.PloS One, 7:e39785;

Le, TM., P. Fritsche, M. Bublin, C. Oberhuber, S. Bulley,E. van Hoffen, B. K. Ballmer-Weber, A. C. Knulst, andK. Hoffmann-Sommergruber. 2011. Differences in the allergenicity of six different kiwi cultivars analyzed by prick-to-prick testing, open food challenges and ELISA. J. AllergyClin.Immunol. 127(3):677-9.e2;

Hoffmann-Sommergruber, K.,and E.N.C. Mills.2009. Food allergen protein families: Their structural characteristics, purification and application in component resolved diagnosis. Anal.Bioanal. Chem. 395(1):25-35;

Oberhuber, C., Y. Ma, J. Marsh, N. Rigby, U. Smole, C. Radauer, S. Alessandri, P. Briza, L. Zuidmeer, B. Maderegger, M. Himly, A. I. Sancho, R. van Ree, A. Knulst, C. Ebner, P. Shewry, E.N.C. Mills, K. Wellner, H. Breiteneder, K. Hoffmann-Sommergruber, M. Bublin. 2008. Purification and characterisation of relevant natural and recombinant apple allergens. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 52: S208-219;

Ma, Y., G.Gadermaier, B. Bohle, S.Bolhaar, A. Knulst, Z. Markovic-Housley, H. Breiteneder, P.Briza, K. Hoffmann-Sommergruber, F. Ferreira.2006. Mutational analysis of amino acid positions crucial for IgE-binding epitopes of the major apple (Malusdomestica) allergen, Mal d 1.Int. Arch. Allergy Immunol.15;139(1):53-62;