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A mouse model to assess the allergenic potential of a process, illustrated by the deamidation of wheat gluten

Assessing the impact of a transformation process on the allergenicity of a food constitutes an important step towards better information for consumers regarding allergic risks. INRA researchers have demonstrated the usefulness of a mouse model in testing the effect of processes on the allergenicity of foods.

Gros plan sur des épis en cours de maturation de la variété de blé tendre
Updated on 02/12/2013
Published on 02/12/2013

Allergy, a two-phase process

Food allergy is defined as an abnormal and exaggerated response of the immune system to components in a food (allergen).  An allergic reaction is a process that occurs in two phases. During the first, so-called sensitisation phase, an allergenic molecule crosses the intestinal barrier and triggers a series of reactions that lead to the production of immunoglobin E (IgE) specific to the allergen. During the second phase, the allergen binds directly to specific IgE fixed on the surface of mastocytes, inducing the release of numerous mediators of inflammation.
In France, wheat ranks eighth amongst allergies in children and twelfth amongst those in adults, the principal allergens incriminated being gliadins, the principal proteins in gluten.

Deamidation, an industrial process with considerable consequences

Deamidation is a technological process used in industry to increase the solubility of gluten and thus broaden the scope of its use: cooked meats, pasta, cured meats, etc…  However, severe allergic reactions to this modified gluten have been reported among wheat-tolerant individuals. To understand the effect of this process on gluten allergenicity, the scientists compared the allergic reactions triggered by native and deamidated wheat proteins in both allergic patients and in a mouse model. Allergy to deamidated gluten results from mechanisms which differ from those observed in the case of allergy to wheat flour.

The mouse model, representative of allergic reactions in humans

The research team developed a mouse model of sensitisation to deamidated gliadins.  Their results evidenced a greater degree of mouse sensitisation by deamidated gliadins than by native gliadins, as well as distinctive IgE reactivity profiles. This model is very interesting because the mice presented a response that was very comparable to that of human patients who are allergic to deamidated gluten.

Using the mouse model to assess the impact of a process on the allergenicity of foods

This study showed that it is indeed possible to assess the impact of a technological process using a mouse model. It could also constitute a good tool to test the effect of other processes on the allergenicity of foods.
The impact on allergenicity of processes or the environment is highly complex.  Numerous allergens behave very differently towards a variety of processes.  As an initial approach, in vitro methods are used, but sometimes their results may not be representative of the phenomena under study.  Animal models – and particularly mice – enable a more global vision of the impact of a particular allergen.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Marie Bodinier (+33(0)2 40 67 50 35) INRA, UR BIA - Biopolymères, Interactions, Assemblages
Associated Division(s):
Science for Food and Bioproduct Engineering
Associated Centre(s):
Pays de la Loire