Food Allergy and Protein Expression

Food Allergy and Protein Expression

The Alcocer Group

Our research interests fall into two main areas: Food allergy and Protein expression/folding. In the Food allergy area we are trying to understand why common food proteins are recognized by the immune system as "foreign" whilst other proteins with similar structures are tolerated? 

In the Protein expression area we are developing new strategies for the production of properly folded and in vivo biotinylated proteins in the yeast system for use in the area of diagnostics, nanoparticles and phage display technology.



Food Allergy and Protein Expression 

Key aims and expertise

By using purified proteins as model system, we investigate how food proteins interact with particular cells of the immune systems (DC, T cells and NKTs) and what kind of signals are generated. In the process we are learning how these proteins are up taken, processed, which genes are up regulated and which cytokines are produced. These further our understanding of what makes and allergen and will help on the prediction of allergenicity of novel proteins. On the applied side our group is developing new high throughput technologies for diagnosis of allergy in humans, horses and dogs.

Current projects

Protein allergenicity

Our main model systems are nut proteins, particularly plant 2S albumins. Although able to polarise the DC immune response in susceptible animals, the purified plant proteins alone were not able to induce allergic response. Our currently in vitro work suggests that DCs uptake/processing are similar for the various 2S families but specific Th1 genes are activated by the control non-allergenic proteins. Further, NKT cells and the presence of endogenous natural lipids are essential for the allergenicity of common food 2S albumin proteins.

Allergy diagnostics

We are developing new tools for the clinical diagnose of allergies (IgE) and safety of vaccines.Two main platforms are on going:  (i) comprehensive basophil x protein microarray system  and (ii) a comprehensive protein microarray and a mathematical modelling system. This platform currently comprises of 384 spots and has being successfully used with samples of blood (one drop) from humans, dogs and horses (see publication list).

NKT (Natural Killer T Cells) work

In view of our recent results (see allergenicity above) we are setting up a human based DC/NKT cell system to study key lipid mediators responsible for the early sensitisation phase. A large multinational company sponsors this system.

Protein expression

By developing new strategies for the production of properly folded and in vivo biotinylated proteins in yeast, we are complementing our initial work on lysozyme mutants, producing major allergenic proteins for our diagnostic system, and developing new tools on the area of nanoparticles and phage display technology.


All of our work is performed in collaboration with groups with complementary expertise from our University and with international collaborating Universities and industries.

Significant results

Research team

  • Dr Marcos Alcocer (Associate Professor in Biochemistry)
  • Dr Ashfaq Ghumra (Post doctoral researcher)
  • Ms Maria Neophytou (Technician)
  • Ms Nuzul Jambari (PhD Student)

Related research



Food Allergy and Protein Expression

Division of Nutritional Sciences
School of Biosciences
Sutton Bonington Campus
The University of Nottingham
Nr Loughborough, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 6103