Watermelon and ragweed share allergens

Robert N. Enberg, Frederick E. Leickly, Judith McCullough, Judith Bailey, Dennis R. Ownby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


A biotin-avidin amplified ELISA was used to measure antigen-specific IgE for ragweed, representative members of the gourd family (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, zucchini, and cucumber), and banana in the sera of 192 allergic patients, each with an IgE ≥ 180 μm/ml. Sixty-three percent ( 120 192) of the sera contained antiragweed IgE, and of these patients, 28% to 50% contained IgE specific for any single gourd family member. In contrast, no >11% of the sera positive for a given gourd or banana were negative for ragweed. Correlations between ragweed and gourd-specific IgE levels were significant (p < 0.001), and correlation coefficients between any two gourds exceeded 0.79. In an ELISA system, the extracts of watermelon and ragweed inhibited each other in a dose-dependent manner; the resulting nonparallel inhibition curves indicate that some, but not all, of the allergens in the two extracts are cross-reactive. Isoelectric focusing of watermelon and ragweed extracts in narrow range gel (pH 4 to 6) followed by immunoblotting demonstrated six watermelon allergen bands with isoelectric points identical to those of ragweed allergens. Several remaining bands in the two extracts had differing isoelectric points, however. Six of 26 patients interviewed with watermelon-specific IgE reported developing oropharyngeal symptoms (itching and/or swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat) after ingesting at least one of the study foods, whereas only one of 25 patients interviewed without detectable watermelon-specific IgE reported similar symptoms (p = 0.05). We conclude that most oropharyngeal symptoms associated with the study foods are mediated in part by an IgE mechanism and that ragweed shares allergens with watermelon and probably the entire gourd family as well as banana.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)867-875
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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