The dominant allergenic components of grass pollen are known by immunologists as group 1 allergens. These constitute a set of closely related proteins from the β-expansin family and have been shown to have cell wall-loosening activity. Group 1 allergens may facilitate the penetration of pollen tubes through the grass stigma and style. In maize (Zea mays), group 1 allergens are divided into two classes, A and B. We have identified 15 genes encoding group 1 allergens in maize, 11 genes in class A and four genes in class B, as well as seven pseudogenes. The genes in class A can be divided by sequence relatedness into two complexes, whereas the genes in class B constitute a single complex. Most of the genes identified are represented in pollen-specific expressed sequence tag libraries and are under purifying selection, despite the presence of multiple copies that are nearly identical. Group 1 allergen genes are clustered in at least six different genomic locations. The single class B location and one of the class A locations show synteny with the rice (Oryza sativa) regions where orthologous genes are found. Both classes are expressed at high levels in mature pollen but at low levels in immature flowers. The set of genes encoding maize group 1 allergens is more complex than originally anticipated. If this situation is common in grasses, it may account for the large number of protein variants, or group 1 isoallergens, identified previously in turf grass pollen by immunologists.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science