Elevated levels of serum antibodies to the lectin wheat germ agglutinin in celiac children lend support to the gluten-lectin theory of celiac disease


*Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, Linköping University, S-58185 Linkoping, Sweden


Lectins recognize carbohydrate moities of glycoproteins and glycolipids, and can elicit several biological effects, including cell agglutination, cell activation and mitogenesis. According to the gluten-lectin theory, celiac lesions represent a response to a toxic lectin, putatively wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). In this study we compared the serum antibody levels IgA, IgG and IgM to WGA and to gliadin in children under investigation for celiac disease (CD), as compared to reference children. We found that the levels of IgA and IgG to WGA as well as gliadin were significantly higher in celiac children on a gluten-containing diet, compared to children on gluten-free diet and reference children. These findings lend support to the concept that WGA is a biologically significant component of gluten. Since WGA can mimic the effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF) at the cellular level, we hypothezise that the crypt hyperplasia seen in celiac children could be due to a mitogenic response induced by WGA.