BACKGROUND: Current s.c. allergen-specific immunotherapy (SIT) leads to amelioration of IgE-mediated allergy, but it requires numerous allergen injections over several years and is frequently associated with severe side-effects. The aim of this study was to test whether modified recombinant allergens can improve therapeutic efficacy in SIT while reducing allergic side-effects. METHODS: The major cat allergen Fel d 1 was fused to a TAT-derived protein translocation domain and to a truncated invariant chain for targeting the MHC class II pathway (MAT-Fel d 1). The immunogenicity was evaluated in mice, while potential safety issues were assessed by cellular antigen stimulation test (CAST) using basophils from cat-dander-allergic patients. RESULTS: MAT-Fel d 1 enhanced induction of Fel d 1-specific IgG2a antibody responses as well as the secretion of IFN-gamma and IL-2 from T cells. Subcutaneous allergen-specific immunotherapy of mice using the modified Fel d 1 provided stronger protection against anaphylaxis than SIT with unmodified Fel d 1, and MAT-Fel d 1 caused less degranulation of human basophils than native Fel d 1. CONCLUSION: MAT-Fel d 1 allergen enhanced protective antibody and Th1 responses in mice, while reducing human basophil degranulation. Immunotherapy using MAT-Fel d 1 allergen therefore has the potential to enhance SIT efficacy and safety, thus, shortening SIT. This should increase patient compliance and lower treatment costs.