Animal lipocalin allergens.
Lipocalins represent the most important group of inhalant animal allergens. For some of them, three-dimensional protein structures have been resolved, but their functions are still elusive. Lipocalins generally display a low sequence identity between family members. The characterization of new lipocalin allergens has revealed however that some of them display a high sequence identity to lipocalins from another species. They constitute a new group of potentially cross-reactive molecules which, in addition to serum albumins, may contribute to allergic cross-reactions between animal dander of different species. However, the clinical relevance of cross-reactivity needs to be assessed. Further studies are needed to understand which of these animal lipocalins are the primary allergens and which are cross-reacting molecules. The use of single, well characterized allergens for diagnosis will allow the identification of the sensitizing animal, which is a prerequisite for specific immunotherapy.