Why Are Pollen Grains Allergenic?
AAIA Quarterly Volume 30 Spring 1994
“Pollen grains carry, on their exterior coat, 30-40 different proteins that are required by the female parts of the plant to identify which pollen grains are a suitable match for pollination. When pollen grains are breathed into the nasal passages or contact the membranes of the eye, they release these proteins to the mucous membranes just as they would onto the surface of the receptive female stigma. This exposes the proteins to the immune system in the blood vessels of the mucous membranes.
The immune system is designed to rid the body of “foreign” proteins and this usually occurs on a daily basis without any notice at all. However, for some people, for some reasons that are still undiscovered, the immune system does not discard some of these pollen proteins through the usual route, but instead produces a special class of antibodies, IgE antibodies.
Just as some proteins are more likely to become allergenic than others, some pollen types carry proteins that are more allergenic. For example, pine is a prolific pollen producer, but very few people are allergic to pine pollen proteins whereas ragweed, which produces less pollen than pine, has proteins that are very allergenic.”
Ms. Rogers also points out the word “pollen” like the word “sheep” is a collective noun. So saying or writing “pollens” is incorrect.
Reference: based on “Pollen and Pollen Allergy” an essay by Dr. Christine Rogers.
© Allergy/Asthma Information Association 1994
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