Smiljanica, K., et al. In-depth quantitative profiling of post-translational modifications of Timothy grass pollen allergome in relation to environmental oxidative stress. Environment International. 126, 644–658. 8/3/2019.
An association between pollution (e.g., from traffic emissions) and the increased prevalence of respiratory allergies has been observed. Field-realistic exposure studies provide the most relevant assessment of the effects of the intensity and diversity of urban and industrial contamination on pollen structure and allergenicity. The significance of in-depth post-translational modification (PTM) studies of pollen proteomes, when compared with studies on other aspects of pollution and altered pollen allergenicity, has not yet been determined; hence, little progress has been made within this field. We undertook a comprehensive comparative analysis of multiple polluted and environmentally preserved Phleum pratense (Timothy grass) pollen samples using scanning electron microscopy, in-depth PTM profiling, determination of organic and inorganic pollutants, analysis of the release of sub-pollen particles and phenols/proteins, and analysis of proteome expression using high resolution tandem mass spectrometry. In addition, we used quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) and immunoglobulin E (IgE) immunoblotting. An increased phenolic content and release of sub-pollen particles was found in pollen samples from the polluted area, including a significantly higher content of mercury, cadmium, and manganese, with irregular long spines on pollen grain surface structures. Antioxidative defense-related enzymes were significantly upregulated and seven oxidative PTMs were significantly increased (methionine, histidine, lysine, and proline oxidation; tyrosine glycosylation, lysine 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal adduct, and lysine carbamylation) in pollen exposed to the chemical plant and road traffic pollution sources. Oxidative modifications affected several Timothy pollen allergens; Phl p 6, in particular, exhibited several different oxidative modifications. The expression of Phl p 6, 12, and 13 allergens were downregulated in polluted pollen, and IgE binding to pollen extract was substantially lower in the 18 patients studied, as measured by quantitative ELISA. Quantitative, unrestricted, and detailed PTM searches using an enrichment-free approach pointed to modification of Timothy pollen allergens and suggested that heavy metals are primarily responsible for oxidative stress effects observed in pollen proteins.