Presence of celiac disease epitopes in modern and old hexaploid wheat varieties: Wheat breeding may have contributed to increased prevalence of celiac disease

Plant Research International, Wageningen UR, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Theoretical and Applied Genetics (Impact Factor: 3.79). 11/2010; 121(8):1527-39. DOI: 10.1007/s00122-010-1408-4
Source: PubMed


Gluten proteins from wheat can induce celiac disease (CD) in genetically susceptible individuals. Specific gluten peptides can be presented by antigen presenting cells to gluten-sensitive T-cell lymphocytes leading to CD. During the last decades, a significant increase has been observed in the prevalence of CD. This may partly be attributed to an increase in awareness and to improved diagnostic techniques, but increased wheat and gluten consumption is also considered a major cause. To analyze whether wheat breeding contributed to the increase of the prevalence of CD, we have compared the genetic diversity of gluten proteins for the presence of two CD epitopes (Glia-α9 and Glia-α20) in 36 modern European wheat varieties and in 50 landraces representing the wheat varieties grown up to around a century ago. Glia-α9 is a major (immunodominant) epitope that is recognized by the majority of CD patients. The minor Glia-α20 was included as a technical reference. Overall, the presence of the Glia-α9 epitope was higher in the modern varieties, whereas the presence of the Glia-α20 epitope was lower, as compared to the landraces. This suggests that modern wheat breeding practices may have led to an increased exposure to CD epitopes. On the other hand, some modern varieties and landraces have been identified that have relatively low contents of both epitopes. Such selected lines may serve as a start to breed wheat for the introduction of 'low CD toxic' as a new breeding trait. Large-scale culture and consumption of such varieties would considerably aid in decreasing the prevalence of CD.

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Available from: Marinus J M Smulders,
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    • "In recent years, scientists have shown increasing interest in investigating nutritional differences among wheat varieties, old genotypes and ancestors due to their diverse nutrient and phytochemical composition. Research studies concerned dietary fiber content (Marotti et al., 2012), phenolics and terpenoid composition (Di Silvestro et al., 2012; Shewry et al., 2011), but strong efforts recently focused on the study of gluten proteins, a major cause of celiac disease (CD) and gluten-related pathologies (Carroccio et al., 2011; Molberg et al., 2005; van den Broeck et al., 2010). From an evolutionary point of view, gluten proteins were absent from the diet of hunter gatherers (Schnorr et al., 2014) and were introduced in human nutrition only about 10,000 years ago. "
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    • "There are many hypotheses that could explain this trend, such as the higher amount of gluten ingested, its quality, the reduction of leavening time during the baking process or changes of the intestinal microbiota (Gobbetti et al., 2007; Ivarsson et al., 2000). Recent studies have demonstrated the presence of a different content of celiac disease epitopes in modern and old wheat varieties (Van den Broeck et al., 2010). Therefore, it is questionable whether there is a correlation between breeding practices and the increasing incidence of celiac disease. "
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    • "Moreover, the increase of emerging diseases such as “gluten sensitivity” has been correlated to exposure to high level of gluten epitopes particularly abundant in modern varieties such as Glia-α9. The lower presence of Glia-α9 epitopes [52] along with richer quali-quantitative polyphenol contents [12], [53] suggest the potential use of old wheat varieties as raw material for developing wheat-derived foodstuffs with health promoting characteristics. "
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