Allergenic risk assessment of cowpea and its cross-reactivity with pea and peanut

Mouhamed Mounir Chentouh, Françoise Codreanu-Morel, Aissa Boutebba, Stephanie Kler, Dominique Revets, Annette Kuehn, Markus Ollert, Christiane Hilger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Novel protein sources can represent a risk for allergic consumers. The aim of this study was to evaluate the allergenicity of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), an increasingly consumed legume and potential new industrial food ingredient which may put legume-allergic patients at risk. Methods: Children with allergy to legumes associated to peanut (LP group: n = 13) or without peanut allergy (L group: n = 14) were recruited and sensitization to several legumes including cowpea was assessed by prick tests and detection of specific IgE (sIgE). Cowpea protein extract was analyzed by SDS-PAGE and immunoblotting, IgE-reactive spots were subjected to mass spectrometry. IgE-cross-reactivity between cowpea, pea, and peanut was determined using ELISA inhibition assays. Basophil activation tests were performed to evaluate sensitivity and reactivity of patient basophils toward legumes. Results: Prick tests and sIgE levels to cowpea were positive in 8/14 and 4/13 patients of the L group and in 9/13 and 10/13 patients of the LP group, respectively. Four major IgE-binding proteins were identified as vicilins and seed albumin. Cowpea extract and its vicilin fraction strongly inhibited IgE-binding to pea and peanut extract. Peanut, lentil, and pea were the strongest activators of basophils, followed by cowpea, soybean, mung bean, and lupin. Conclusion: A majority of patients with legume allergy were sensitized to cowpea proteins. Four novel allergens were identified in cowpea, among which storage proteins were playing an important role in IgE-cross-reactivity, exposing legume-allergic patients to the risk of clinical cross-reactivity to cowpea and thus adding cowpea to the group of nonpriority legumes that are not subjected to allergen labeling such as chickpea, pea, and lentil.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13889
JournalPediatric Allergy and Immunology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • allergenicity
  • allergens
  • cowpea
  • cross-reactivity
  • legumes


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