The ability of exogenous proteins to cause respiratory and gastrointestinal allergy, and sometimes systemic anaphylactic reactions, is well known. What is not clear however, are the properties that confer on proteins the ability to induce allergic sensitization. With an expansion in the use of enzymes for industrial applications and consumer products, and a substantial and growing investment in the development of transgenic crop plants that express novel proteins introduced from other sources, the issue of protein allergenicity has assumed considerable toxicological significance. There is a need now for methods that will allow the accurate identification and characterization of potential protein allergens and for estimation of relative potency as a first step towards risk assessment. To address some of these issues, and to review progress that has been made in the toxicological investigation of respiratory and gastrointestinal allergy induced by proteins, a workshop, entitled the Toxicology of Protein Allergenicity: Prediction and Characterization, was convened at the 37th Annual Conference of the Society of Toxicology in Seattle, Washington (1998). The subject of protein allergenicity is considered here in the context of presentations made at that workshop.
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