The Impact of Different Cultivation Conditions on the Expression of Alternaria alternata Allergens - European Medical Journal

The Impact of Different Cultivation Conditions on the Expression of Alternaria alternata Allergens

2 Mins
Allergy & Immunology
Download PDF
Sandra Pfeiffer,1 Margarete Focke-Tejkl,2,3 Katja Sterflinger,4 Ines Swoboda1
  • 1. The Molecular Biotechnology Section, FH Campus Wien, University of Applied Sciences, Vienna, Austria
  • 2. Pathophysiology and Allergy Research, Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology, and Immunology, Medical University of Vienna, Austria
  • 3. Working Group Danube Allergy Research Cluster (ARC), Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences, Krems, Austria
  • 4. Department of Natural Sciences and Technology in the Arts, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria
*Correspondence to [email protected]

The authors declare that they have received support from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (projects 856337 and FO999898058), the Austrian Science Fund
(project P 34836-B), and the Country of Lower Austria’s funded Danube Allergy Research Cluster.

EMJ Allergy Immunol. ;8[1]:32-34. DOI/10.33590/emjallergyimmunol/10306952.
Allergy diagnosis, Alternaria alternata, Alt a 1, Alt a 6, fungal cultivation, fungal extracts.

Each article is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 License.


Alternaria alternata is one of the most potent sources of airborne allergens.1,2 However, the diagnosis of A. alternata sensitisation is hampered by the poor quality of allergy test solutions.3 Cultivation conditions can have a major impact on the allergens present in mould extracts.3-5 The majority of previous studies have mainly focused on the effect of growth parameters on the expression of single allergens, without analysing the occurrence of other allergens.6,7 Multiple A. alternata allergens have already been identified and characterised.1,8 Two molecules, the major allergen Alt a 1 (15 kDa) and the cross-reactive allergen Alt a 6 (47 kDa), are the species’ most relevant allergens.1,8 The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of different cultivation conditions on the expression of these two allergens.


To analyse the effect of environmental conditions on fungal allergen expression (Figure 1A), clones of A. alternata were cultivated in the presence of different carbon sources (i.e., glucose, cellulose, and methylcellulose), or at different temperatures (i.e., 20–25 °C, 30 °C, 37 °C). Then, protein extracts were prepared from the fungal material (mycelium and spores), which were harvested after different days of growth. To detect the expression of the allergens Alt a 1 and Alt a 6, Western blots with allergen-specific antibodies were carried out.


Western blots performed with antibodies directed against Alt a 1 and Alt a 6 showed that the expression of the fungal allergens is highly molecule-dependent. The carbon source, cultivation temperature, and growth time did not have a major impact on the expression of Alt a 1, as fungal allergen extracts containing the allergen could be easily produced from fungi grown under various conditions (Figure 1B). For example, Alt a 1 could still be extracted from very small amounts of fungal biomass that was harvested after 5–20 days of growth at 37 °C. Moreover, results of anti-recombinant Alt a 1 immunoblots revealed that the growth on glucose, an easily accessible substrate, compared with the growth on more complex carbon sources (i.e., cellulose, methylcellulose), did not have a major impact on the expression of Alt a 1. In contrast, Alt a 6 could not be detected in protein extracts prepared from A. alternata grown under any condition (Figure 1B). These results demonstrate the difficulty in producing reliable allergen extracts containing fungal enolase.

Figure 1: Analysis of the impact of different cultivation conditions on the expression of Alternaria
A) Experimental set-up for the analysis of the impact of different cultivation conditions on the expression of the Alternaria alternata allergens Alt a 1 and Alt a 6. B) Expression of Alt a 1 and Alt a 6 in A. alternata grown under different conditions (cultivation time, carbon source, temperature), shown by anti-Alt a 1 and anti-Alt a 6 immunoblots.
rAlt a 1: recombinant Alt a 1; rAlt a 6: recombinant Alt a 6.


Taking A. alternata as an example, the authors’ data reveal that even though certain cultivation conditions might lead to strong expression of one allergen, the same conditions might not be optimal for the expression of another allergen. This emphasises the necessity of determining the optimal cultivation and extraction conditions for each allergen separately. Information obtained in this study will help to optimise fungal cultivation to produce highly potent diagnostic fungal extracts, and therefore to improve allergy diagnosis. In the future, it will be of interest to also investigate the effect of further cultivation conditions on the expression of A. alternata allergens, to include additional allergens in investigations and, of course, to extend the analyses to further fungal species.

Simon-Nobbe B et al. The spectrum of fungal allergy. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2008;145(1):58-86. Gabriel MF et al. Alternaria alternata allergens: markers of exposure, phylogeny and risk of fungi-induced respiratory allergy. Environ Int. 2016;89-90:71-80. Twaroch TE et al. Mold allergens in respiratory allergy: from structure to therapy. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2015;7(3):205-20. Twaroch T et al. Specific antibodies for the detection of alternaria allergens and the identification of cross-reactive antigens in other fungi. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2016;170(4):269-78. Schmid-Grendelmeier P, Crameri R. Recombinant allergens for skin testing. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2001;125(2):96-111. Arruda LK et al. Selective expression of a major allergen and cytotoxin, Asp f I, in Aspergillus fumigatus. Implications for the immunopathogenesis of Aspergillus-related diseases. J Immunology. 1992;149(10):3354-9. Ibarrola I et al. Production profile of the major allergen Alt a 1 in Alternaria alternata cultures. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2004;93(6):589-93. Postigo I et al. Diagnostic value of Alt a 1, fungal enolase and manganese-dependent superoxide dismutase in the component-resolved diagnosis of allergy to pleosporaceae. Clin Exp Allergy. 2011;41(3):443-51.

Keep your finger on the pulse

Join Now

Elevating the Quality of Healthcare Globally