Background: The house dust mite (HDM) Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus is a major allergen source eliciting allergic asthma. The aim of the study was to identify new important HDM allergens associated with allergic asthma.Methods: A cDNA coding for a new mite allergen, designated Der p 21, was isolated using immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies from patients with allergic asthma out of a D. pteronyssinus expression cDNA library and expressed in Escherichia coli.Results: Circular dichroism analysis of the purified allergen showed that rDer p 21 (14 726 Da) is one of the few mite allergens with an alpha-helical secondary structure. The protein exhibited high thermal stability and refolding capacity, and, as determined by small angle X-ray scattering, formed a dimer consisting of two flat triangles. rDer p 21 bound high levels of patients' IgE antibodies and showed high allergenic activity in basophil activation experiments. Rabbit anti-Der p 21 IgG antibodies inhibited mite-allergic patients' IgE binding and allowed the ultrastructural localization of the allergen in the midgut (epithelium, lumen and faeces) of D. pteronyssinus by immunogold electron microscopy. Der p 21 revealed sequence homology with group 5 mite allergens, but IgE and IgG reactivity data and cross-inhibition studies identified it as a new mite allergen.Conclusion: Der p 21 is a new important mite allergen which is liberated into the environment via faecal particles and hence may be associated with allergic asthma.