Intestinal protein uptake and IgE-mediated food allergy

Anne-Sofie Ravn Ballegaard, Katrine Lindholm Bøgh*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Food allergy is affecting 5-8% of young children and 2-4% of adults and seems to be increasing in prevalence. The cause of the increase in food allergy is largely unknown but proposed to be influenced by both environmental and lifestyle factors. Changes in intestinal barrier functions and increased uptake of dietary proteins have been suggested to have a great impact on food allergy. In this review, we aim to give an overview of the gastrointestinal digestion and intestinal barrier function and provide a more detailed description of intestinal protein uptake, including the various routes of epithelial transport, how it may be affected by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, and the relation to food allergy. Further, we give an overview of in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo techniques available for evaluation of intestinal protein uptake and gut permeability in general.

Proteins are digested by gastric, pancreatic and integral brush border enzymes in order to allow for sufficient nutritional uptake. Absorption and transport of dietary proteins across the epithelial layer is known to be dependent on the physicochemical properties of the proteins and their digestion fragments themselves, such as size, solubility and aggregation status. It is believed, that the greater an amount of intact protein or larger peptide fragments that is transported through the epithelial layer, and thus encountered by the mucosal immune system in the gut, the greater is the risk of inducing an adverse allergic response. Proteins may be absorbed across the epithelial barrier by means of various mechanisms, and studies have shown that a transcellular facilitated transport route unique for food allergic individuals are at play for transport of allergens, and that upon mediator release from mast cells an enhanced allergen transport via the paracellular route occurs. This is in contrast to healthy individuals where transcytosis through the enterocytes is the main route of protein uptake. Thus, knowledge on factors affecting intestinal barrier functions and methods for the determination of their impact on protein uptake may be useful in future allergenicity assessments and for development of future preventive and treatment strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112150
JournalFood Research International
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Gut permeability
  • Allergens
  • Intestinal barrier
  • Epithelial transport
  • Food allergy
  • Cell junctional complexes
  • Environmental impact
  • Lifestyle impact


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