Fresh water, marine and terrestrial cyanobacteria display distinct allergen characteristics

Naama Lang-Yona, Anna Theresa Kunert, Lothar Vogel, Christopher Johannes Kampf, Iris Bellinghausen, Joachim Saloga, Anne Schink, Kira Ziegler, Kurt Lucas, Detlef Schuppan, Ulrich Pöschl, Bettina Weber, Janine Fröhlich-Nowoisky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the last decades, global cyanobacteria biomass increased due to climate change as well as industrial usage for production of biofuels and food supplements. Thus, there is a need for thorough characterization of their potential health risks, including allergenicity. We therefore aimed to identify and characterize similarities in allergenic potential of cyanobacteria originating from the major ecological environments. Different cyanobacterial taxa were tested for immunoreactivity with IgE from allergic donors and non-allergic controls using immunoblot and ELISA. Moreover, mediator release from human FcεR1-transfected rat basophilic leukemia (RBL) cells was measured, allowing in situ examination of the allergenic reaction. Phycocyanin content and IgE-binding potential were determined and inhibition assays performed to evaluate similarities in IgE-binding epitopes. Mass spectrometry analysis identified IgE-reactive bands ranging between 10 and 160 kDa as phycobiliprotein compounds. Levels of cyanobacterial antigen-specific IgE in plasma of allergic donors and mediator release from sensitized RBL cells were significantly higher compared to non-allergic controls (p < 0.01). Inhibition studies indicated cross-reactivity between IgE-binding proteins from fresh water cyanobacteria and phycocyanin standard. We further addressed IgE-binding characteristics of marine water and soil-originated cyanobacteria. Altogether, our data suggest that the intensive use and the strong increase in cyanobacterial abundance due to climate change call for increasing awareness and further monitoring of their potential health hazards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-774
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2018


  • Immunoassay
  • Inhibition assay
  • Nostoc
  • Phycocyanin
  • Protein mass spectrometry

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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