Cereal Proteins: Immunostimulatory and Toxic Peptides

Fernando G. Chirdo, Eduardo Arranz


Storage proteins from wheat kernels are the base of a wide variety of homemade and industrial food products. Nonetheless, for a group of individuals (coeliac disease (CD) patients), these proteins are toxic. Gliadins and glutenins from wheat, as well as their counterparts in barley and rye, also called prolamins, are evolutionary related, and present a high degree of homology.

Polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies raised against prolamins have been a very useful tool to characterise structural and conformational features of prolamins, and particularly, for gluten analysis based on immunochemical techniques. Complete adherence to a gluten-free diet is required to recover the normal histology of the small intestine in CD patients. To this end, the use of certified gluten-free products is mandatory.

Aqueous solvents such as 60-70% ethanol, have been used for extraction of prolamins from flours and food. This method is not selective and, therefore, results in complex mixtures of proteins which together with their low solubility in aqueous solutions, high degree of homology, and consequently crossreactivity, produce some drawbacks in gluten analysis by immunoassays.

Prolamins drive an exacerbated immune response in intestinal mucosa of CD patients. T lymphocytes are a central piece in CD pathogenesis. However, new insights in the knowledge of innate immunity point out to some gliadin peptides which can also produce structural changes in the intestine as well as inflammatory reactions.

Palabras clave

gliadins, glutenins, prolamins, toxic proteins, gluten analysis, immune response

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