Evaluation of allergenicity of genetically modified soybean protein extract in a murine model of oral allergen-specific sensitization


Dr Raffaella Tinghino, Department. of Infectious, Parasitic and Immune-Mediated Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, I-00161 Rome, Italy.
E-mail: tinghino@iss.it


Background With the development of genetically modified crop plants there has been a growing interest in the approaches available to assess the potential allergenicity of novel gene products. For additional assessment of the potential allergenicity of expressed proteins, informative data can be generated using animal models. Soybean is one of the major source of protein in human and animal nutrition, and has also been well characterized as a major allergenic source. Advances in biotechnology have resulted in an increasing number of genetically engineered foods, and among these soybean is one of the most widespread.

Objective To develop and characterize a murine model of IgE-mediated soybean sensitization induced by intragastric immunization, in the presence of Cholera Toxin, with wild-type soybean extract (wt-SE) or with genetically modified soybean extract (gm-SE).

Methods Balb/c mice born in our animal facilities, from females fed on soy-free food, were fed with the same soy-free food and used in all the experiments. Mice were sensitized by gavages with soybean extracts, and allergen-specific IgE and IgG responses were studied by direct ELISA and ELISA inhibition. Antigen-specific cell proliferation and cytokine production were evaluated in spleen cell cultures.

Results Sensitization with both soybean extracts induced high levels of antigen-specific IgE and IgG1 and low levels of specific IgG2a. Both wt-SE and gm-SE were able to inhibit the binding of specific IgE from mice immunized with gm-SE to the same antigen used for the ELISA coating. A comparable proliferative response was obtained with the homologous as well as with the heterologous extracts.

Conclusion In sensitized mice, we observed a predominantly T-helper type 2 (Th2)-type immune response, with increased soybean-specific IgE and IgG1 antibodies and a concomitant increase of IL-4 and IL-5 production. Results obtained by specific IgE ELISA inhibition and by antigen-specific T cell proliferation demonstrated that wt-SE and gm-SE shared B and T epitopes. The present murine model of soybean sensitization established by the oral route should provide valuable information about risk assessment for food allergy from new proteins of genetically modified foods.