Preventive and therapeutic potential of peptides from cereals against cancer

J Proteomics. 2014 Dec 5:111:165-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2014.03.044. Epub 2014 Apr 13.


Epidemiological studies have shown that regular consumption of food based on whole-grain cereals and their products is associated with reduced risks of various types of degenerative chronic diseases. Food proteins are considered an important source of nutraceutical peptides and amino acids that can exert biological functions to promote health and prevent disease, including cancer. There have been several reports on peptides with anti-tumour activity in recent years. Plant-derived peptides, such as rapeseed, amaranth and soybean lunasin have received main attention. In this review, we extend this vision to analyse the evidence of current advances in peptides in cereals such as wheat, maize, rice, barley, rye and pseudocereals compared with soybean. We also show evidence of several mechanisms through which bioactive peptide exerts anti-tumour activity. Finally, we report the current status of major strategies for the fractionation, isolation and characterisation of bioactive peptides in cereals.

Biological significance: In recent reports, it has been shown that peptides are an interesting alternative in the search for new treatments for cancer. One of the most studied sources of these peptides is food proteins; however, a review that includes more recent findings for cereals as a potential source of bioactive peptides in the treatment of cancer, the techniques for their isolation and characterisation and the assays used to prove their bioactivity is not available. This review can be used as a tool in the search for new sources of anti-cancer peptides. The authors have no conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Keywords: Anticancer; Bioactive peptides; Cereals; Maize.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry*
  • Apoptosis
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Edible Grain / chemistry*
  • Electrophoresis, Capillary
  • Enzymes / chemistry
  • Glycine max / chemistry
  • Hordeum / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Isoelectric Focusing
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Secale / chemistry
  • Triticum / chemistry
  • Ultrafiltration
  • Zea mays / chemistry


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzymes
  • Peptides
  • Plant Proteins
  • lunasin protein, barley