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Code: g201
Latin name: Hordeum vulgare
Source material: Pollen
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae)
Sub family: Pooideae
Tribe: Triticeae
Common names: Barley, Common Barley, Barleycorn, Malt, Naked Barley, Pearl Barley, Pot Barley, Scotch Barley

Barley pollen g201 should be differentiated from Barley, the food f6. 


A grass species producing pollen, which often induces hay fever, asthma and conjunctivitis in sensitised individuals.

Allergen Exposure

Geographical distribution

Barley is probably native to the Middle East, from Afghanistan to northern India. It first came under cultivation 12 000 or more years ago. It is widely cultivated in temperate areas of the world for its edible seed. Because of its wide geographical distribution, Barley has accumulated a vast array of genetic variability.

Barley is the fourth most important cereal crop in the world after wheat, maize and rice. Russia is the largest producer of Barley, followed by Great Britain, France, the United States, then Canada and other countries.

Barley is an erect annual grass. Its stout, simple stem is hollow and jointed, and can grow more than a meter high. The narrow, tapering leaves ascend the stem in two ranks, with some overlapping; and their bases form loose sheaths around the stem. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by wind. The flowers grow in bristly-bearded terminal spikes, eventually producing the elliptic, furrowed Barley grains. The time of flowering depends on the cultivar, and cultivars include winter-hardy varieties. The period from planting to harvest varies from 60 days to four months.

Barley can be categorised into three basic types: two-rowed, with kernels in two lines; four-rowed, with kernels in four lines; and six-rowed, with kernels in six lines. Barley may also be categorised into three types based on the nature of the hulls, which may vary from tight to loose to non-existent.


Barley is not known in the wild. It may be found as a remnant of cultivation but does not persist.

Barley is a staple food in the developing world, and is used in industrialised countries for animal feed and for speciality food products. Malt is a nutritious sweetener in various foods. It is also grown for distilling malt liquors and spirits, and is one of the primary components of beer. About half of the total US Barley production is used for malting. Barley has many folk medicinal uses.

Scotch or Pot Barley is Barley with the outer husk removed. Pearl Barley is Barley rounded and polished after the husk is removed and used in cooking, to enrich soups, etc.

Unexpected exposure

Barley straw is used as bedding and packing material, for making hats and for the manufacture of cellulose pulp. It is a source of fibres for making paper, and of biomass for fuel, and it may be shredded and used as mulch.

Allergen Description

Allergens characterised to date:

Hor v 1, a 14.5 kDa protein, a Group 1 grass allergen, an expansin (1, 2).

Hor v 2, a Group 2 grass allergen (2, 3).

Hor v 4, a Group 4 grass allergen, a pectate lyase (berberine bridge enzyme) (1, 4-6).

Hor v 5, a Group 5 grass allergen, a ribonuclease, and previously known as Hor v 9 (1, 2, 7-11).

Hor v 12, a profiling (7, 12).

Hor v 13, a Group 13 grass allergen, a polygalacturonase (13, 14).

Southern blots suggest that Hor v 5 (Hor v 9) allergens exist as multiple isoforms in Barley (10).

Potential Cross-reactivity

The pantemperate tribe Triticeae is notable for its cereal genera: Wheat, Barley and Rye. Their close relation makes cross-reactivity likely between Wild Rye grass g70, Cultivated Wheat g15, Cultivated Rye grass g12, Barley g201, and Couch grass (Agropyron repens) as well as Lymegrass (Elymus arenarius). Extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the genus may be expected. There should be cross-reactivity with other members of the family Poaceae, particularly in the subfamily Pooideae (Rye grass (g5), Canary grass (g71), Meadow grass (g8), Timothy (g6), Cocksfoot (g3), Meadow Fescue (g4), Velvet (g13), Redtop (g9), Meadow Foxtail (g16), Wild Rye grass (g70)) (15, 16).

The Group 4 allergens are well known as important major allergens of grasses, and may account for a degree of cross-reactivity between grass pollens containing this allergen (5).

Sequence comparisons showed that the Hor v 5 (Hor v 9) cDNA clones 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(10).

The Barley pollen cDNA, and three other cloned allergens: Phl p 5, Phl p 5a (from Timothy) and Lol p 1b (from Rye grass) were demonstrated to have extensive nucleotide and amino acid sequence similarity to Poa p 9 isoallergens of Meadow grass (1).

Clinical Experience

IgE-mediated reactions

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Barley pollen may induce asthma, allergic rhinitis and allergic conjunctivitis in sensitised individuals; however, few studies have been reported to date.

In a French study, using specific IgE tests, Barley pollen and Rye pollen were demonstrated to be the cereals that were the most prevalent sensitising allergens in children with grass pollinosis (17).

Aerobiological surveys have detected Barley pollen in the atmosphere of Madrid, Spain (18) and in the Sarajevo region (19).

Other reactions

Flour made from the seed of Barley may result in symptoms of food allergy, occupational allergy, or allergy reactions to beer (20-22).

Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman, developer of Allergy Advisor, 


  1. Astwood JD, Mohapatra SS, Ni H, Hill RD. Pollen allergen homologues in barley and other crop species. Clin Exp Allergy 1995;25(1):66-72.
  2. Mohapatra SS, Lockey RF, Shirley S. Immunobiology of grass pollen allergens. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep 2005;5(5):381-7.
  3. Marth K, Focke M, Flicker S, Valenta R. Human monoclonal antibody-based quantification of group 2 grass pollen allergens. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2004;113(3):470-4.
  4. Leduc-Brodard V, Inacio F, Jaquinod M, Forest E, David B, Peltre G. Characterization of Dac g 4, a major basic allergen from Dactylis glomerata pollen. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1996;98(6 Pt 1):1065-72.
  5. Nandy A, Petersen A, Wald M, Suck R, Kahlert H, Weber B, Becker WM, Cromwell O, Fiebig H. Primary structure, recombinant expression, and molecular characterization of Phl p 4, a major allergen of timothy grass (Phleum pratense). Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2005;337(2):563-70.
  6. Loureiro G, Rabaca M, Blanco B, Andrade S, Chieira C, Pereira C. Aeroallergens sensitization in an allergic paediatric population of Cova da Beira, Portugal. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr) 2005;33(4):192-8.
  7. International Union of Immunological Societies Allergen Nomenclature: IUIS official list 2009
  8. Vrtala S, Fischer S, Grote M, Vangelista L, Pastore A, Sperr WR, Valent P, Reichelt P, Kraft D, Valenta R. Molecular, immunological, and structural characterization of Phl p 6, a major allergen and P-particle-associated protein from timothy grass (Phleum pratense) pollen. J Immunol 1999;163:5489-96.
  9. Astwood JD, Hill RD. Molecular characterization of Hor v 9. Conservation of a T-cell epitope among group IX pollen allergens and human VCAM and CD2. Adv Exp Med Biol 1996;409:269-77.
  10. Astwood JD, Hill RD. Cloning and expression pattern of Hor v 9, the group 9 pollen isoallergen from barley. Gene 1996;182(1-2):53-62.
  11. Ramirez J, Obispo TM, Duffort D, Carpizo JA, Chamorro MJ, Barber D, Ipsen H, Carreira J, Lombardero M. Group 5 determination in Pooideae grass pollen extracts by monoclonal antibody-based ELISA. Correlation with biologic activity. Allergy 1997;52(8):806-13.
  12. van Ree R, Voitenko V, van Leeuwen WA, Aalberse RC. Profilin is a cross-reactive allergen in pollen and vegetable foods. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 1992;98(2):97-104.
  13. Grote M, Swoboda I, Valenta R, Reichelt R. Group 13 allergens as environmental and immunological markers for grass pollen allergy: studies by immunogold field emission scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2005;136(4):303-10.
  14. Petersen A, Suck R, Hagen S, Cromwell O, Fiebig H, Becker WM. Group 13 grass allergens: structural variability between different grass species and analysis of proteolytic stability. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2001;107(5):856-62.
  15. Yman L. Botanical relations and immunological cross-reactions in pollen allergy. 2nd ed. Pharmacia Diagnostics AB. Uppsala. Sweden. 1982: ISBN 91-970475-09.
  16. Yman L. Pharmacia: Allergenic Plants. Systematics of common and rare allergens. Version 1.0. CD-ROM. Uppsala, Sweden: Pharmacia Diagnostics, 2000.
  17. Lelong M, Thibaudon M, Thelliez PH. Is it necessary to test children having summer respiratory problems with cereal pollens? [French] Allerg Immunol (Paris) 1989;21(10):394-5.
  18. Subiza J, Masiello JM, Subiza JL, Jerez M, Hinojosa M, Subiza E. Prediction of annual variations in atmospheric concentrations of grass pollen. A method based on meteorological factors and grain crop estimates. Clin Exp Allergy 1992;22(5):540-6.
  19. Saracević E, Redzić S, Telacević A. The frequency of pollen allergy at the population of Sarajevo region during the 2002 year. [Bosnian] Med Arh 2005;59(4):221-3.
  20. Curioni A, Santucci B, Cristaudo A, Canistraci C, Pietravalle M, Simonato B, Giannattasio M. Hypersensitivity to beer is due to a 10-kDa protein derived from barley. Clin Exp Allergy 1999;29(3):407-13.
  21. Chiung YM, Shen HD, Huang JW. Immunoblot analysis of components of barley recognized by IgE antibodies in sera from pig farm workers. Electrophoresis 1998;19(8-9):1317-8.
  22. Vidal C, Gonzalez-Quintela A. Food-induced and occupational asthma due to barley flour. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 1995;75(2):121-4.

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