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Biochemical and Molecular Biological Aspects of Silverfish Allergens

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Insects and insect-derived materials have been implicated as a risk factor for sensitization and subsequent elicitation of allergic rhinitis and allergic bronchial asthma. During the last decades, insects other than those known as allergenic, were investigated for their potential role in inducing and triggering an IgE immune response. Among these, the silverfish, an insect belonging to the Thysanura order, appeared to be of particular interest. Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) is the most primitive living insect, and represents a descendent of the ancestral wingless insects. They are 3-12 mm long, have three tail feelers and are covered with shiny scales. They shun light and need a humid environment and their diet consists of carbohydrate materials such as paper and book-binding glue, crumbs of bread and flour. Because of these features, silverfish finds an optimal habitat both in dwellings and workplaces and in spite of its antiquity, silverfish has succeeded in exploiting the new opportunity created by man.

Although its importance significantly increased when it has been demonstrated that house dust contains significant silverfish levels even in houses where the inhabitants were unaware of its presence, no silverfish extract for diagnosis of allergic diseases is commercially available yet.

Identification of optimal extraction conditions and characterization of allergenic extracts are the first steps to obtain an effective allergen preparation suitable for diagnosis and therapy, and will be useful as a reference preparation for assessing silverfish exposure in different indoor environments.

It has been cloned and characterized a silverfish tropomyosin, named Lep s 1, which represents the first allergen identified in silverfish extract and can be regarded as a molecule cross-reactive among inhalant and edible invertebrates allergenic sources. rLep s 1 displayed biological activity, suggesting that it could be regarded as a useful tool to study the role of silverfish tropomyosin in the sensitization to invertebrate allergic sources.
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Keywords: Insect allergy; characterization; cross-reactivity; indoor allergens; silverfish; tropomyosin

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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  • Protein & Peptide Letters publishes short papers in all important aspects of protein and peptide research, including structural studies, recombinant expression, function, synthesis, enzymology, immunology, molecular modeling, drug design etc. Manuscripts must have a significant element of novelty, timeliness and urgency that merit rapid publication. Reports of crystallisation, and preliminary structure determinations of biologically important proteins are acceptable. Purely theoretical papers are also acceptable provided they provide new insight into the principles of protein/peptide structure and function.
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