Rye grass

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Code: g5
Latin name: Lolium perenne
Source material: Pollen
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae)
Sub family: Pooideae
Tribe: Poeae
Common names: Rye grass, Rye-grass, Perennial Rye Grass, Perennial Rye-grass, Perennial Ryegrass, Ray-grass, Annual Ryegrass
There is a need to differentiate between Rye grass (Lolium perenne) g5, Cultivated Rye (Secale cereale) g12, Rye the foodstuff (Secale cereale) f5, and Wild Rye grass (Elymus tricoides) g70.
Some authors consider Italian Ryegrass to be a variety or subspecies of Perennial Ryegrass Recent genetic work indicates that they are distinct species, both possibly originating from a common ancestor, Wimmera Ryegrass (L. rigidum).
A grass species producing pollen, which often induces hayfever, asthma and conjunctivitis in sensitised individuals.

Allergen Exposure

Geographical distribution
It is native to Europe but has been introduced on all continents with temperate zones, and many islands. Ryegrass has become a highly valued and productive cool-season forage, hay, lawn and erosion-control grass. It was the first meadow grass cultivated in Europe, and is considered the most important forage grass there.
Rye grass is a short-lived perennial, biennial or annual bunchgrass growing to as much as 1.5 m tall at a fast rate, and with a deeply fibrous root system. The plant is loosely to densely tufted (if loose, it forms dense tufts when grazed). The culms are erect, spreading, decumbent or (rarely) prostrate, sometimes rooting at the lowest nodes. The leaves are scattered along the culms. The leaf blades, folded in the young shoots, are 1 to 6 mm wide, 5.5 to 30 cm long, flat or folded, glossy, dark green and hairless. The tips of the leaves may be prowlike.
The inflorescence is a single spike, green or purple, erect, straight or slightly curved, symmetrical, fully exserted and up to 25 cm long. The spikelets alternate up the axis. The hermaphrodite (having both male and female organs) florets number 6 to 22 per spikelet. An incomplete (male) floret may also be present. Rye grass may remain in leaf all year, and may flower almost all summer; otherwise between May and July in the Northern Hemisphere. The flowers are pollinated by wind. Regeneration is by seed, probably dispersed by animals. Tillering can also be profuse.
Ryegrass grows on disturbed sites, pastures, meadows, fields, lawns, roadsides, and even in clearings. Its usages in cultivation are mainly in mixtures.
The seed is used as a cereal and an emergency food. It is occasionally used in folk remedies for cancer, diarrhea, hemorrhage and malaria.
Pollen from perennial Rye grass (Lolium perenne) is a major cause of type I allergies worldwide. It contains at least 32 antigens to which 13 could be bound by IgE by sera from 11 patients with well-established allergic rhinitis (1).
  • Lol p 1, a major allergen (2-5)
  • Lop p 2, a major allergen (6-7) 
  • Lol p 3 (8)
  • Lol p 4 (9-10)
  • Lol p 5, and the isoforms Lol p 5A and Lol p 5C (11-12)
  • Lol p 9 (13)
  • Lol p 10, Cytochrome c (has very low allergenicity) (14)
  • Lol p 11, a soybean trypsin inhibitor (15)
Only single isoforms have been found to Lol p 1 (16).
Lol p 5C shares 95% amino acid sequence identity with Lol p 5A. Both isoforms demonstrated shared antigenic activity but different allergenic activities. Recombinant Lol p 5C demonstrated 100% IgE reactivity in 22 Rye grass pollen-sensitive patients. In comparison, recombinant Lol p 5A showed IgE reactivity in less than 64% of the patients (11).

Potential Cross-Reactivity

An extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the genus could be expected, as well as to a certain degree among members of the family Poaceae; and in particular among grasses belonging to the subfamily Pooideae (Rye grass (g5), Canary grass (g71), Meadow grass (g8), Timothy (g6), Cocksfoot (g3), Meadow Fescue (g4), Velvet grass (g13), Redtop (g9), Meadow Foxtail (g16), Wild Rye grass (g70)) (17-18).  
This grass contains Group 1 allergens, to which more than 95% of patients allergic to grass pollen possess IgE antibodies. These are highly cross-reactive glycoproteins exclusively expressed in the pollen of many grasses (19-21).
Group 1 allergens are highly homologous, but not all of the antigenic epitopes are crossreactive (22). For example, Group 1 allergens from eight different clinically important grass pollens of the Pooideae (Rye grass, Canary grass, Meadow grass, Cocksfoot and Timothy), Chloridoideae (Bermuda grass) and Panicoideae (Johnson grass, Maize) were isolated, and IgE binding to an allergic human serum pool was conducted to determine the degree of antigenic and IgE-binding similarities. The highest IgE-binding similarity was observed between Cocksfoot and Rye grass (53%) and between Rye grass and Canary grass (43%). No IgE-binding similarity was observed between Maize and other grasses. The highest antigenic similarity was also observed between Rye grass and Cocksfoot grass (76%), and the lowest similarity between Maize (23%) and Bermuda (10%) (23). 
Highly homologous Group 1 allergens have been demonstrated between Pha a 1 from Canary grass, Lol p 1 from Rye grass pollen (a deduced amino acid sequence identity of 88.8%), Hol l 1 from Velvet grass pollen (88.1%), and  Phl p 1 from Timothy grass pollen (86.6%)(24). The major Timothy grass pollen allergen Phl p 1 also cross-reacts with most grass-, Corn- and monocot-derived Group 1 allergens (25). Monoclonal antibodies of Cyn d 1 (Bermuda grass) recognised cross-reactive epitopes on proteins from eight other grasses including Rye grass, Timothy grass, Meadow grass and Johnson grass (26).
T-cell lines specific for Phl p 1 (the Group 1 allergen of Timothy grass) from the sera of 9 patients allergic to grass pollen displayed IgE binding with grass pollen extracts from Dactylis glomerata (Cocksfoot), Poa pratensis (Meadow grass), Lolium perenne (Rye grass), and Secale cereale (Cultivated Rye), and selected amino acid sequence-derived peptides. Crossreactivity studies revealed crossreacting and non-crossreacting T-cell epitopes (27).
Rye grass also contains a Group 4 allergen. Group 4 grass pollen allergens are glycoproteins with a molecular weight of 50 to 60 kDa, which are present in many grass species. Almost 75% of patients allergic to grass pollen display IgE reactivity to Group 4 allergens, which hence can be regarded as major grass pollen allergens (28).  Inhibition studies of IgE antibody binding to Dac g 4 (Dactylis glomerata - Cocksfoot grass) and to other pollen extracts confirmed the presence of cross-reactive allergens in Secale cereale (Cultivated Rye), Lolium perenne (Rye grass), Festuca elatior (Meadow Fescue), Holcus lanatus (Velvet grass), Bromus arvensis (Field Brome), Poa pratense (Meadow grass), Hordeum sativum (Barley), and Phleum pratense (Timothy grass) (29). 

 urther, Phl p 4 homologes with similar molecular weights were detected in Lolium perenne (Rye grass), Dactylis glomerata (Cocksfoot grass), Festuca pratensis (Meadow Fescue), Holcus lanatus (Velvet grass) and Poa pratensis (Meadow grass). Group 4 homologes are present in the various grass, extracts but to different extents (30).
Rye grass pollen also contains a Group 5 allergen. Almost 90% of grass pollen-allergic patients are sensitised against Group 5 grass pollen allergens. A monoclonal human IgE antibody have been shown to cross-react with Group 5A isoallergens from several grass and Corn species (31).

Polymorphic forms of Pha a 5 from Canary grass has been shown to share significant sequence identity with other Group 5 allergens from Rye grass, Timothy and Meadow grass pollens (24).

Group 5 allergens of Timothy grass (Phl p 5) bear T cell epitopes cross-reacting with Group 1 allergens of Rye grass (Lol p 1) (32). Group 5 allergens have also been detected in Timothy, Meadow grass and Cocksfoot extracts as well as in Rye grass. The major components in these fractions were found to be 25-28 kDa proteins, and IgE binding to these components was confirmed using a pool of grass-allergic sera (33).

Not all grass species appear to contain Group 5 allergens. Natural pollen extracts from Anthoxanthum odoratum (Sweet Vernal grass), Avena sativa (Cultivated Oat), Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda grass), Lolium perenne (Rye grass), Phragmites australis (Common Reed), Poa pratensis (Meadow grass), Secale cereale (Cultivated Rye grass), Triticum sativum (Cultivated Wheat), and Zea mays (Maize/Corn) were characterised according to their allergen contents by tests with specific antibodies and by IgE immunoblot inhibition with recombinant allergens from Phl p 1, Phl p 2, Phl p 5, and Bet v 2 using sera of 193 European, American, and Asian subjects. Immunologically detectable Group 5 and Group 2 allergens were found in all these species except for C. dactylon and Z. mays (34).
Sequence comparisons showed that the Hor v 9 cDNA clones (Barley pollen) were also homologous to Group 5 allergens of Timothy grass (Phleum pratense) pollen and Canary grass (Phalaris aquatica) pollen, and the Group 9 allergen of Ryegrass (Lolium perenne) pollen (35). 
N-glycans have been isolated from Meadow grass, Cultivated Rye, Rye grass, Short Ragweed, Giant Ragweed, Birch, Hornbeam, Horse Chestnut, Olive, and Snake-skin Pine pollen extracts. For grass pollens the major glycans detected were identical in properties. The authors state that these results are compatible with the hypothesis that the carbohydrate structures are another potential source of immunological cross-reaction between different plant allergens (36).
Nine Lol p 1-specific T-cell clones were shown to exhibit cross-recognition of the recombinant Poa pratensis 9 (Poa p 9) allergen, indicating that these two major antigens of grass pollen share T-cell epitopes. Sequence comparisons of several allergenic molecules indicated that this cross-reactivity may be due to the presence of epitope(s) with structure(s) similar to the major T-cell epitope of Poa p 9 allergens, suggesting that the major grass pollen allergens share cross-reacting T-cell epitope(s) (37). 

Immunoblot IgE binding to Oilseed Rape pollen could be totally inhibited by Rye pollen (38).
A monoclonal antibody against major Rye grass pollen that bound to the 28 to 30kDa allergen showed, through immunoblotting, binding to similar polypeptides in Festuca elatior (Meadow Fescue) (39).

Although Canary grass has its own allergens, it shares some, resulting in cross-reactivity with Rye grass (40).

Clinical Experience

IgE mediated reactions
Rye grass pollen is a very common inducer of asthma, allergic rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis (41-44). Sensitisation to Rye grass pollen has been reported throughout the world.
Late spring thunderstorms have been reported to trigger epidemics of asthma attacks (45). Various mechanisms for this have been postulated, including the release of starch granules from Rye grass pollen (46).
In-utero sensitisation of T cells due to inhalation of these allergens by the mother during pregnancy has been suggested (47).
Rye grass pollen was shown to be a very prominent sensitising allergen in the Netherlands (48), and in Germany (49). 
In Switzerland, Rye grass is reported to be a major pollen responsible for allergic rhinitis during summer months (41, 50). In the southern part of Switzerland, through the use of specific IgE tests in a sample of 503 consecutive patients suffering from allergic rhinitis, the most prevalent sensitivity was shown to be to grass pollens (72%), and to Rye grass (69%) (51).
Sensitisation to Rye grass is prevalent in Spain (52). In a study in Comarca Lagunera, 101 patients with asthma were found to be highly sensitive to pollen grains: Bermuda grass (70%), Goosefoot (69%), Russian Thistle (63%), Rye Grass (61%), and Maize (57%) (53).
In line with other European studies, sensitisation to Rye grass was shown to be very prevalent in Poland (54).  
Sensitisation to Rye grass is very prevalent in Australia. A history of allergic rhinitis and allergy to Rye grass was reported to be a strong predictor for asthma exacerbation during thunderstorms in the spring (55). In 3 populations of schoolchildren aged 8-11 years and living in different climatic areas of New South Wales, specific IgE tests confirmed sensitisation to Rye grass (56).
Similarly, in a longitudinal study of a birth cohort of New Zealand children up to the age of 13 years, the association between specific IgE to various common allergens and the development of childhood asthma was explored. Of 714 children, 45.8% were sensitive to at least 1 of 11 allergens, the most common response being to Rye grass pollen (32.5%) (57).
In Cape Town, South Africa, pollen from Rye grass was detected in aeroallergen studies (58). In Egypt, in 68 randomly selected patients with asthma, specific IgE to Rye grass was determined to be a prominent sensitising allergen (59).
Rye grass sensitisation has also been reported from Turkey (60) and Mexico (61). In the latter, specific IgE determination in 138 patients with asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis showed that after House Dust Mite, the allergens to which sensitisation was most frequently present were Bermuda and Rye grass (62).
Other reactions
Although common allergens have not been detected to date in Rye grass pollen and seed, cross-reactivity between seeds of various cereals and grasses occurs. RAST of sera from subjects sensitised to Wheat and Rye flour indicated that there is significant reaction with seed extracts of 12 cereals (Wheat, Durum wheat, Triticale, Cereal Rye, Barley, Rye grass, Oats, Canary grass, Rice, Maize, Sorghum and Johnson grass) (63). 
Rye grass seed is comparable to Oats in nutritive value, and contains a prolamine and a gluten similar to Wheat gluten.

Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman, harris@zingsolutions.com


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As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.