J Korean Med Sci.  2016 Aug;31(8):1202-1207. 10.3346/jkms.2016.31.8.1202.

Cross-Reactivity between Oak and Birch Pollens in Korean Tree Pollinosis

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Institute of Allergy, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. parkjw@yuhs.ac
  • 2Department of Biology Education, Faculty of Education, Seowon University, Cheongju, Korea.


Oak and birch trees belong to Fagales order. Specific IgE to pollen allergens of both trees are frequently found in Korea pollinosis patients. Oak trees which comprise 40% of forest area are common in Korea. However, birch trees are sparse. We compared the allergenicity of pollen extracts of white oak, sawtooth and Mongolian oaks which are prevalent species in Korea, with the pollen extract of birch. The cross-reactivity of four pollen extracts was examined with pooled sera of 12 patients by ELISA, immunoblotting and CAP inhibitions. A protein of 17 kDa, putatively homologous to a major birch allergen Bet v 1, displayed strong IgE reactivity from white oak and sawtooth oak pollen extract but not from Mongolian oak pollen. Notably, a 23-kDa protein from sawtooth and white oaks showed strong IgE reactivity and inhibited by Bet v 1. IgE binding to white oak was inhibited a maximum of 94.6% by white oak, 93.4% by sawtooth oak, 83.2% by Mongolian oak, and 68.8% by birch. Furthermore, sawtooth oak, white oak, and Mongolian oak extracts were able to inhibit up to 78.5%, 76.6% and 67.3% of IgE binding to birch extract, while birch extract itself inhibited up to 94.3%. Specific IgE to Bet v 1 was inhibited a maximum of 79.1% by sawtooth oak, 77.4% by white oak, and 72.7% by Mongolian oak, while 81.5% inhibition was shown by birch. Bet v 1 was able to partially inhibit its homologous molecules from sawtooth oak and white oak in immunoblotting. Birch pollen extract was found to be cross-reactive primarily with Bet v 1-homologous allergen from oak pollens in Korea pollinosis patients. Considering the sparseness of birch tree in Korea, oak, especially sawtooth oak may be the main cause of tree pollinosis in Korea, rather than birch.


Cross-Reactivity; Oak Pollen; Tree Pollinosis; IgE; Korea

MeSH Terms

Asian Continental Ancestry Group
Betula/growth & development/*immunology
Cross Reactions
Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
Immunoglobulin E/blood
Middle Aged
Quercus/growth & development/*immunology
Republic of Korea
Immunoglobulin E


  • Fig. 1 Correlation of IgE reactivity to white oak and common silver birch pollen extract in Korean tree pollen allergy patients.

  • Fig. 2 Antigenic bands of oaks and birch. (A) SDS-PAGE. Proteins (20 μg) were separated onto 18% polyacrylamide gel under reducing condition. (B) IgE immunoblot by probing IgE reactive proteins with serum from patients preincubated without inhibitor. (C) Inhibition immunoblot analysis with recombinant Bet v 1. Lanes: M, molecular mass standard; 1, sawtooth oak (Quercus acutissima); 2, Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica); 3, white oak (Q. alba); 4, common silver birch (Betula verrucosa).

  • Fig. 3 Cross-reactivity of Fagales tree pollen extracts. (A) IgE reactivity to white oak was competitively inhibited by pre-incubation of serum with various concentrations of oak and birch. (B) IgE reactivity to common silver birch was also inhibited by oak and birch, and percentage of inhibition calculated to evaluate the cross-reactivity.

  • Fig. 4 Cross-reactivity by PR-10 allergens. Inhibition ImmunoCAP analysis against Bet v 1 was performed using sawtooth oak, Mongolian oak, white oak, and common silver birch pollen extracts.

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