Gerco den Hartog - Hypo Allergenic Mussels

Shell and shellfish allergy are less known food allergies. However, mussel allergy can result in severe and even anaphylactic symptoms. It is estimated that at least 1 million people within the EU suffer from mussel allergy.

Several proteins like tropomyosin, arginine kinase and heat shock protein 70 which are present in the gills and hemocytes of mussels are described as allergens. Tropomyosin is believed to be the main allergenic component and several IgE binding sites have been identified.

IgE is involved in allergy as IgE bound to an allergen can cause degranulation and release of histamine from mast cells. Histamine is the causative agent for many of the allergic symptoms.

The aim of the project is:

  • to select and develop a hypo allergenic mussel by genetic selection or recombinant DNA technology,
  • measuring immunological parameters reflecting allergenicity,
  • and to develop new diagnostic tools for rapid identification of allergenic mussels.



  • Selection of commercially used mussel lines and eco-physiological testing by IMARES (prof. A. Smaal)
  • Using molecular biological and biochemical tools to detect potential new allergens
  • Silencing of known allergens by a small interference RNA approach
  • A Micro Array can be used to detect expression of allergenic genes

Human Allergenic parameters:

  • ELISA for IgE titers, Immulite
  • Biosensor to test for binding affinity of IgE
  • Cell culture and stimulation with different mussel extracts
  • Flow cytometric analysis for cell proliferation and cytokine production