Natural variation in toxicity of wheat: potential for selection of nontoxic varieties for celiac disease patients

Gastroenterology. 2005 Sep;129(3):797-806. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2005.06.017.


Background & aims: Celiac disease (CD) is an intestinal disorder caused by T-cell responses to peptides derived from the gluten proteins present in wheat. Such peptides have been found both in the gliadin and glutenin proteins in gluten. The only cure for CD is a lifelong gluten-free diet. It is unknown, however, if all wheat varieties are equally harmful for patients. We investigated whether wheat varieties exist with a natural low number of T-cell-stimulatory epitopes.

Methods: Gluten proteins present in public databases were analyzed for the presence of T-cell-stimulatory sequences. In addition, wheat accessions from diploid (AA, SS/BB, and DD genomes), tetraploid (AABB), and hexaploid (AABBDD) Triticum species were tested for the presence of T-cell-stimulatory epitopes in gliadins and glutenins by both T-cell and monoclonal antibody-based assays.

Results: The database analysis readily identified gluten proteins that lack 1 or more of the known T-cell-stimulatory sequences. Moreover, both the T-cell- and antibody-based assays showed that a large variation exists in the amount of T-cell-stimulatory peptides present in the wheat accessions.

Conclusions: Sufficient genetic variation is present to endeavor the selection of wheat accessions that contain low amounts of T-cell-stimulatory sequences. Such materials may be used to select and breed wheat varieties suitable for consumption by CD patients, contributing to a well-balanced diet and an increase in their quality of life. Such varieties also may be useful for disease prevention in individuals at risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Celiac Disease / diet therapy*
  • Clone Cells
  • Gliadin / immunology
  • Gliadin / toxicity*
  • Glutens / immunology
  • Glutens / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Peptide Fragments / immunology
  • Peptide Fragments / pharmacology
  • Polyploidy
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Triticum / genetics
  • Triticum / immunology
  • Triticum / toxicity*


  • Peptide Fragments
  • Glutens
  • Gliadin