"From Protein Toxins to Applied Toxicological Testing" virtual workshop identifies the need for a bioinformatic framework to assess novel food protein safety

Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2022 Jun;131:105146. doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2022.105146. Epub 2022 Feb 24.


On October 21-22, 2020 the HESI (Health and Environmental Sciences Institute) Protein Allergens, Toxins, and Bioinformatics Committee, and the Society of Toxicology Food Safety Specialty Section co-hosted a virtual workshop titled "From Protein Toxins to Applied Toxicological Testing". The workshop focused on the safety assessment of novel proteins contained in foods and feeds, was globally represented by over 200 stakeholder attendees, and featured contributions from experts in academia, government and non-government organizations, and agricultural biotechnology developers from the private sector. A range of topics relevant to novel protein safety were discussed, including: the state of protein toxin biology, modes and mechanisms of action, structures and activity, use of bioinformatic analyses to assess the safety of a protein, and ways to leverage computational biology with in silico approaches for protein toxin identification/characterization. Key outcomes of the workshop included the appreciation of the complexity of developing a definition for a protein toxin when viewed from the perspective of food and feed safety, confirming the need for a case-by-case hypothesis-driven interpretation of bioinformatic results that leverages additional metadata rather than an alignment threshold-driven interpretation, and agreement that a "toxin protein database" is not necessary, as the bioinformatic needs for toxin detection may be accomplished by existing databases such as Pfam and UniProtKB/Swiss-Prot. In this paper, a path forward is proposed.

Keywords: Bioinformatics; Mechanism of toxicity; Protein toxin; Safety assessment; Toxin database.

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / chemistry
  • Allergens / toxicity
  • Biotechnology / methods
  • Computational Biology*
  • Databases, Protein
  • Food Safety*


  • Allergens