Background/aims: Coeliac disease is a chronic intestinal disorder most probably caused by an abnormal immune reaction to wheat gliadin. The identification of the HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 as the molecules responsible for the HLA association in coeliac disease strongly implicates a role for CD4 T cells in disease pathogenesis. Indeed, CD4 T cells specific for gliadin have been isolated from the small intestine of patients with coeliac disease. However, identification of T cell epitopes within gliadin has been hampered by the heterogeneous nature of the gliadin antigen. To aid the characterisation of gliadin T cell epitopes, multiple recombinant gliadins have been produced from a commercial Nordic wheat cultivar.
Methods: The alpha-gliadin and gamma-gliadin genes were amplified by polymerase chain reaction from cDNA and genomic DNA, cloned into a pET expression vector, and sequenced. Genes encoding mature gliadins were expressed in Escherichia coli and tested for recognition by T cells.
Results: In total, 16 alpha-gliadin genes with complete open reading frames were sequenced. These genes encoded 11 distinct gliadin proteins, only one of which was found in the Swiss-Prot database. Expression of these gliadin genes produced a panel of recombinant alpha-gliadin proteins of purity suitable for use as an antigen for T cell stimulation.
Conclusion: This study provides an insight into the complexity of the gliadin antigen present in a wheat strain and has defined a panel of pure gliadin antigens that should prove invaluable for the future mapping of epitopes recognised by intestinal T cells in coeliac disease.