Common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.): allergenicity and molecular characterization of pollen after plant exposure to elevated NO2.
Ragweed pollen is the main cause of allergenic diseases in Northern America, and the weed has become a spreading neophyte in Europe. Climate change and air pollution are speculated to affect the allergenic potential of pollen. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of NO2, a major air pollutant, under controlled conditions, on the allergenicity of ragweed pollen. Ragweed was exposed to different levels of NO2 throughout the entire growing season, and its pollen further analysed. Spectroscopic analysis showed increased outer cell wall polymers and decreased amounts of pectin. Proteome studies using two-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry indicated increased amounts of several Amb a 1 isoforms and of another allergen with great homology to enolase Hev b 9 from rubber tree. Analysis of protein S-nitrosylation identified nitrosylated proteins in pollen from both conditions, including Amb a 1 isoforms. However, elevated NO2 significantly enhanced the overall nitrosylation. Finally, we demonstrated increased overall pollen allergenicity by immunoblotting using ragweed antisera, showing a significantly higher allergenicity for Amb a 1. The data highlight a direct influence of elevated NO2 on the increased allergenicity of ragweed pollen and a direct correlation with an increased risk for human health.