BACKGROUND Shrimp may cross-react with other crustaceans and mollusks and nonedible arthropods such as insects (cockroach and chironomids), arachnids (house dust mites) and even nematodes. Since the muscle protein tropomyosin has been implicated as a possible cross-reacting allergen, this study characterized the IgE-binding epitopes in shrimp tropomyosin, Pen a 1, that cross-react with other allergenic invertebrate tropomyosins in house dust mites (Der p 10, Der f 10) and cockroaches (Per a 7). Pen a 1-reactive sera from shrimp-allergic subjects were used to evaluate the effect on IgE binding of different amino acid substitutions in Pen a 1 epitopes based on homologous sequences in Per a 7 and Der p 10/Der f 10. METHODS Peptides were synthesized spanning the length of Pen a 1 IgE-binding epitopes and amino acid substitutions were performed based on homologous amino acid sequences from Per a 7 and Der p 10/Der f 10. RESULTS 7/8 individually recognized Pen a 1 epitopes (2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5a, 5b and 5c) had an identical amino acid sequence with lobster allergen, Hom a 1, 4/8 (3a, 3b, 4 and 5a) with Der p 10 and Der f 10, and 5/8 (2, 3a, 3b, 4 and 5a) with Per a 7. In addition, even homologous regions of other arthropod tropomyosins that differ in one or more amino acids from the sequences of Pen a 1 epitopes are still recognized by shrimp-allergic IgE antibodies. In total, shrimp-allergic sera recognize 6/8 peptides homologous to Pen a 1 epitopes in Per a 7, 7/8 in Der p 10/Der f 10, and 7/8 epitopes in Hom a 1. CONCLUSIONS The IgE recognition by shrimp-allergic individuals of identified and/or similar amino acid sequences homologous to Pen a 1 epitopes in mite, cockroach and lobster tropomyosins are the basis of the in vitro cross-reactivity among invertebrate species. Based on amino acid sequence similarity and epitope reactivity, lobster tropomyosin has the strongest and cockroach the least cross-reactivity with shrimp. The clinical relevance of these cross-reactivities in developing allergic reactions to different arthropods needs to be determined.