NYMC Faculty Publications


Reducing the Immunogenic Potential of Wheat Flour: Silencing of Alpha Gliadin Genes in a U.S. Wheat Cultivar

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The alpha gliadins are a group of more than 20 proteins with very similar sequences that comprise about 15%-20% of the total flour protein and contribute to the functional properties of wheat flour dough. Some alpha gliadins also contain immunodominant epitopes that trigger celiac disease, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects approximately 1% of the worldwide population. In an attempt to reduce the immunogenic potential of wheat flour from the U.S. spring wheat cultivar Butte 86, RNA interference was used to silence a subset of alpha gliadin genes encoding proteins containing celiac disease epitopes. Two of the resulting transgenic lines were analyzed in detail by quantitative two-dimensional gel electrophoresis combined with tandem mass spectrometry. Although the RNA interference construct was designed to target only some alpha gliadin genes, all alpha gliadins were effectively silenced in the transgenic plants. In addition, some off-target silencing of high molecular weight glutenin subunits was detected in both transgenic lines. Compensatory effects were not observed within other gluten protein classes. Reactivities of IgG and IgA antibodies from a cohort of patients with celiac disease toward proteins from the transgenic lines were reduced significantly relative to the nontransgenic line. Both mixing properties and SDS sedimentation volumes suggested a decrease in dough strength in the transgenic lines when compared to the control. The data suggest that it will be difficult to selectively silence specific genes within families as complex as the wheat alpha gliadins. Nonetheless, it may be possible to reduce the immunogenic potential of the flour and still retain many of the functional properties essential for the utilization of wheat.

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