• Genomic and transcriptional analysis of allergen genes in apple (Malus x domestica)
  • Pagliarani, Giulia <1981>


  • AGR/03 Arboricoltura generale e coltivazioni arboree


  • Apple consumption is highly recomended for a healthy diet and is the most important fruit produced in temperate climate regions. Unfortunately, it is also one of the fruit that most ofthen provoks allergy in atopic patients and the only treatment available up to date for these apple allergic patients is the avoidance. Apple allergy is due to the presence of four major classes of allergens: Mal d 1 (PR-10/Bet v 1-like proteins), Mal d 2 (Thaumatine-like proteins), Mal d 3 (Lipid transfer protein) and Mal d 4 (profilin). In this work new advances in the characterization of apple allergen gene families have been reached using a multidisciplinary approach. First of all, a genomic approach was used for the characterization of the allergen gene families of Mal d 1 (task of Chapter 1), Mal d 2 and Mal d 4 (task of Chapter 5). In particular, in Chapter 1 the study of two large contiguos blocks of DNA sequences containing the Mal d 1 gene cluster on LG16 allowed to acquire many new findings on number and orientation of genes in the cluster, their physical distances, their regulatory sequences and the presence of other genes or pseudogenes in this genomic region. Three new members were discovered co-localizing with the other Mal d 1 genes of LG16 suggesting that the complexity of the genetic base of allergenicity will increase with new advances. Many retrotranspon elements were also retrieved in this cluster. Due to the developement of molecular markers on the two sequences, the anchoring of the physical and the genetic map of the region has been successfully achieved. Moreover, in Chapter 5 the existence of other loci for the Thaumatine-like protein family in apple (Mal d 2.03 on LG4 and Mal d 2.02 on LG17) respect the one reported up to now was demonstred for the first time. Also one new locus for profilins (Mal d 4.04) was mapped on LG2, close to the Mal d 4.02 locus, suggesting a cluster organization for this gene family, as is well reported for Mal d 1 family. Secondly, a methodological approach was used to set up an highly specific tool to discriminate and quantify the expression of each Mal d 1 allergen gene (task of Chapter 2). In aprticular, a set of 20 Mal d 1 gene specific primer pairs for the quantitative Real time PCR technique was validated and optimized. As a first application, this tool was used on leaves and fruit tissues of the cultivar Florina in order to identify the Mal d 1 allergen genes that are expressed in different tissues. The differential expression retrieved in this study revealed a tissue-specificity for some Mal d 1 genes: 10/20 Mal d 1 genes were expressed in fruits and, indeed, probably more involved in the allergic reactions; while 17/20 Mal d 1 genes were expressed in leaves challenged with the fungus Venturia inaequalis and therefore probably interesting in the study of the plant defense mechanism. In Chapter 3 the specific expression levels of the 10 Mal d 1 isoallergen genes, found to be expressed in fruits, were studied for the first time in skin and flesh of apples of different genotypes. A complex gene expression profile was obtained due to the high gene-, tissue- and genotype-variability. Despite this, Mal d 1.06A and Mal d 1.07 expression patterns resulted particularly associated with the degree of allergenicity of the different cultivars. They were not the most expressed Mal d 1 genes in apple but here it was hypotized a relevant importance in the determination of allergenicity for both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the Mal d 1 gene expression levels. In Chapter 4 a clear modulation for all the 17 PR-10 genes tested in young leaves of Florina after challenging with the fungus V. inaequalis have been reported but with a peculiar expression profile for each gene. Interestingly, all the Mal d 1 genes resulted up-regulated except Mal d 1.10 that was down-regulated after the challenging with the fungus. The differences in direction, timing and magnitude of induction seem to confirm the hypothesis of a subfunctionalization inside the gene family despite an high sequencce and structure similarity. Moreover, a modulation of PR-10 genes was showed both in compatible (Gala-V. inaequalis) and incompatible (Florina-V. inaequalis) interactions contribute to validate the hypothesis of an indirect role for at least some of these proteins in the induced defense responses. Finally, a certain modulation of PR-10 transcripts retrieved also in leaves treated with water confirm their abilty to respond also to abiotic stress. To conclude, the genomic approach used here allowed to create a comprehensive inventory of all the genes of allergen families, especially in the case of extended gene families like Mal d 1. This knowledge can be considered a basal prerequisite for many further studies. On the other hand, the specific transcriptional approach make it possible to evaluate the Mal d 1 genes behavior on different samples and conditions and therefore, to speculate on their involvement on apple allergenicity process. Considering the double nature of Mal d 1 proteins, as apple allergens and as PR-10 proteins, the gene expression analysis upon the attack of the fungus created the base for unravel the Mal d 1 biological functions. In particular, the knowledge acquired in this work about the PR-10 genes putatively more involved in the specific Malus-V. inaequalis interaction will be helpful, in the future, to drive the apple breeding for hypo-allergenicity genotype without compromise the mechanism of response of the plants to stress conditions. For the future, the survey of the differences in allergenicity among cultivars has to be be thorough including other genotypes and allergic patients in the tests. After this, the allelic diversity analysis with the high and low allergenic cultivars on all the allergen genes, in particular on the ones with transcription levels correlated to allergencity, will provide the genetic background of the low ones. This step from genes to alleles will allow the develop of molecular markers for them that might be used to effectively addressed the apple breeding for hypo-allergenicity. Another important step forward for the study of apple allergens will be the use of a specific proteomic approach since apple allergy is a multifactor-determined disease and only an interdisciplinary and integrated approach can be effective for its prevention and treatment.


  • 2010-05-19


  • Doctoral Thesis
  • PeerReviewed


  • application/pdf



Pagliarani, Giulia (2010) Genomic and transcriptional analysis of allergen genes in apple (Malus x domestica), [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Colture arboree ed agrosistemi forestali ornamentali e paesaggistici , 22 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/2629.