Allergens are special types of (otherwise harmless) environmental antigens that elicit allergic reactions in sensitized individuals. One group of allergens includes small environmental or therapeutical chemicals that become allergenic after binding to self‐proteins (contact or drug allergy). Other allergens are inhaled, dietary or insect‐sting proteins that induce, mainly in predisposed individuals, an immune response characterized by immunoglobulin E production (atopic allergy).

Keywords: contact allergens; hyperreactivity; atopy; IgE; irritants; cross‐reactivity

Further Reading

Aalberse RC (1995) Physicochemical characteristics of food allergens. In: De Weck AL and Sampson HA (eds) Intestinal Immunology and Food Allergy, pp. 47–56. Nestlé Nutrition Workshop Series, vol. 34. New York: Raven Press.

Aalberse RC and Van Ree R (1996) Cross‐reactive carbohydrate determinants. Monographs in Allergy 32: 78–83.

Aalberse RC and Van Ree R (1997) Crossreactive carbohydrate determinants. Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology 15: 375–387.

Grabbe S and Schwarz T (1997) Immunoregulatory mechanisms involved in elicitation of allergic contact hypersensitivity. Immunology Today 19: 37–44.

Lachapelle J‐M, Ale SI, Freema SE et al. (1997) Proposal for a revised international standard series of patch tests. Report of The International Contact Dermatitis Research Group. Contact Dermatitis 36: 121–123.

Middleton E, Reed CE, Ellis EF et al. (1998) Allergy: Principles and Practice, 5th edn. St Louis: Mosby‐Year Book.

Platts‐Mills TA, Vervloet D, Thomas WR, Aalberse RC and Chapman MD (1997) Indoor allergens and asthma: report of the Third International Workshop. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 100: S2–24.

Van der Veen MJ, Van Ree R, Aalberse RC et al. (1997) Poor biologic activity of cross‐reactive IgE directed to carbohydrate determinants of glycoproteins. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 100: 327–334.

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How to Cite close
Aalberse, RC, and Kapsenberg, ML(Apr 2001) Allergens. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0000938]