Targeted modification of wheat grain protein to reduce the content of celiac causing epitopes
The prolamin peptides in wheat gluten and in the homologous storage proteins of barley and rye cause painful chronic erasure of microvilli of the small intestine epithelium in celiac patients. If untreated, it can lead to chronic diarrhea, abdominal distension, osteoporosis, weight-loss due to malabsorption of nutrients, and anemia. In addition to congenital cases, life-long exposure to gluten proteins in bread and pasta can also induce development of celiac sprue in adults. To date, the only effective treatment is life-long strict abstinence from the staple food grains. Complete exclusion of dietary gluten is, however, difficult due to use of wheat in many foods, incomplete labeling and social constraints. Thus, finding alternative therapies for this most common foodborne disease remained an active area of research, which has led to many suggestions in last few years. The pros and cons associated with these therapies were reviewed in the present communication. As different celiac patients are immunogenic to different members of the undigestible proline/glutamine rich peptides of ∼149 gliadins and low molecular weight glutenin subunits as well as the six high molecular weight glutenin subunits, an exhaustive digestion of the immunogenic peptides in the stomach, duodenum, jejunum, and ileum of celiacs is required. In view of the above, we evaluated the capacity of cereal grains to synthesize and store the enzymes prolyl endopeptidase from Flavobacterium meningosepticum and the barley cysteine endoprotease B2, which in combination are capable of detoxifying immunogenic gluten peptides in a novel treatment of celiac disease.