Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Increasing Amb a 1 content in common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) pollen as a function of rising atmospheric CO2 concentration

Ben D. Singer A C , Lewis H. Ziska B D , David A. Frenz C , Dennis E. Gebhard C and James G. Straka A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Biology, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Avenue, St Paul, MN 55105, USA.

B Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, 10  300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.

C Multidata LLC, (a subsidiary of Surveillance Data Incorporated), 4838 Park Glen Road, St Louis Park, MN 55416, USA.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 32(7) 667-670
Submitted: 21 February 2005  Accepted: 27 April 2005   Published: 7 July 2005


Although the impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) on production of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) pollen has been examined in both indoor and outdoor experiments, the relationship between allergen expression and [CO2] is not known. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to quantify Amb a 1, ragweed’s major allergen, in protein extracted from pollen of A. artemisiifolia grown at different [CO2] values in a previous experiment. The concentrations used approximated atmospheric pre-industrial conditions (i.e. at the end of the 19th century), current conditions, and the CO2 concentration projected for the middle of the 21st century (280, 370 and 600 μmol mol–1 CO2, respectively). Although total pollen protein remained unchanged, significant increases in Amb a 1 allergen were observed between pre-industrial and projected future [CO2] and between current and projected future [CO2] (1.8 and 1.6 times, respectively). These data suggest that recent and projected increases in [CO2] could directly increase the allergenicity of ragweed pollen and consequently the prevalence and / or severity of seasonal allergic disease. However, genetic and abiotic factors governing allergen expression will need to be better established to fully understand these data and their implications for public health.

Keywords: allergenicity, climate change, public health.


We thank Drs Pamela Diggle and Dana Blumenthal for their editorial comments.


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