A type 1 diabetes-related protein from wheat (Triticum aestivum). cDNA clone of a wheat storage globulin, Glb1, linked to islet damage

J Biol Chem. 2003 Jan 3;278(1):54-63. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M210636200. Epub 2002 Oct 29.


The development of autoimmune type 1 diabetes involves complex interactions among several genes and environmental agents. Human patients with type 1 diabetes show an unusually high frequency of wheat gluten-sensitive enteropathy; T-cell response to wheat proteins is increased in some patients, and high concentrations of wheat antibodies in blood have been reported. In both major models of spontaneous type 1 diabetes, the BioBreeding (BB) rat and non-obese diabetic mouse, at least half of the cases are diet-related. In studies of BB rats fed defined semipurified diets, wheat gluten was the most potent diabetes-inducing protein source. A major limitation in understanding how wheat or other dietary antigens affect type 1 diabetes has been the difficulty in identifying specific diabetes-related dietary proteins. To address this issue, we probed a wheat cDNA expression library with polyclonal IgG antibodies from diabetic BB rats. Three clones were identified, and the intensity of antibody binding to one of them, WP5212, was strongly associated with pancreatic islet inflammation and damage. The WP5212 putative protein has high amino acid sequence homology with a wheat storage globulin, Glb1. Serum IgG antibodies from diabetic rats and humans recognized low molecular mass (33-46 kDa) wheat proteins. Furthermore, antibodies to Glb1 protein were found in serum from diabetic patients but not in age-, sex-, and HLA-DQ-matched controls. This study raises the possibility that in some individuals, type 1 diabetes may be induced by wheat proteins. Also, it provides a first candidate wheat protein that is not only antigenic in diabetic rats and human patients but is also closely linked with the autoimmune attack in the pancreas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antibodies / blood
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins / immunology*
  • Female
  • Gene Library
  • Genes, Plant
  • Globulins / immunology*
  • Globulins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / immunology
  • Islets of Langerhans / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plant Proteins / immunology*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred BB
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Survival Rate
  • Triticum / chemistry
  • Triticum / genetics
  • Triticum / immunology*
  • Wheat Hypersensitivity


  • Antibodies
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Globulins
  • Plant Proteins