Genetically modified α-amylase inhibitor peas are not specifically allergenic in mice

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e52972. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052972. Epub 2013 Jan 9.


Weevils can devastate food legumes in developing countries, but genetically modified peas (Pisum sativum), chickpeas and cowpeas expressing the gene for alpha-amylase inhibitor-1 (αAI) from the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) are completely protected from weevil destruction. αAI is seed-specific, accumulated at high levels and undergoes post-translational modification as it traverses the seed endomembrane system. This modification was thought to be responsible for the reported allergenicity in mice of the transgenic pea but not the bean. Here, we observed that transgenic αAI peas, chickpeas and cowpeas as well as non-transgenic beans were all allergenic in BALB/c mice. Even consuming non-transgenic peas lacking αAI led to an anti-αAI response due to a cross-reactive response to pea lectin. Our data demonstrate that αAI transgenic peas are not more allergenic than beans or non-transgenic peas in mice. This study illustrates the importance of repeat experiments in independent laboratories and the potential for unexpected cross-reactive allergic responses upon consumption of plant products in mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Cicer / genetics
  • Cicer / immunology
  • Cicer / metabolism
  • Cross Reactions / immunology
  • Diet
  • Epithelium / immunology
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Fabaceae / genetics
  • Fabaceae / immunology
  • Fabaceae / metabolism
  • Female
  • Immunization / methods
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Ovalbumin / immunology
  • Peas / genetics
  • Peas / immunology*
  • Peas / metabolism
  • Plant Lectins / genetics
  • Plant Lectins / immunology*
  • Plant Lectins / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / genetics
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / immunology*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • Pneumonia / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia / immunology


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Plant Lectins
  • alpha-amylase inhibitor, Phaseolus vulgaris
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Ovalbumin

Grant support

Funding for this research was provided the GMSAFOOD project (grant nu,ber 211820), through the 7th Framework grant, administered by the European Commission. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.