Assessment of lectin inactivation by heat and digestion

Methods Mol Med. 1998;9:505-14. doi: 10.1385/0-89603-396-1:505.


Proteins/glycoproteins from plants, particularly lectins, are more resistant to heat denaturation than animal proteins (1, 2). With legume seeds, whose lectin content is appreciable, this presents potentially serious problems in nutritional practice. Therefore, before they can be used safely, legume-based food/ feeds usually require thorough and expensive heat processing to inactivate antinutritive components. Indeed, dry or moist heating of seeds at 70°C for several h has little or no effect on their lectin activity (Fig. 1) and treatment at much higher temperatures is needed to inactivate the biological and antinutritional effects of legume lectins (1, 2). The safety aspect is even more serious with some monocot lectins, such as wheatgerm agglutinin or a number of oilseed lectins, such as peanut agglutinin and many others because they are extremely heat stable and normal cooking or other conventional heat treatments may fail to inactivate them (3) Thus, the best way to avoid potential harmful effects of these heat-resistant lectins is to limit their dietary intake to a minimum. Fig. 1. Loss of lectin activity during aqueous heat treatment of soybean at various temperatures.