Evaluating Potential Risks of Food Allergy and Toxicity of Soy Leghemoglobin Expressed in Pichia pastoris

Yuan Jin, Xiaoyun He, Kwame Andoh-Kumi, Rachel Z. Fraser, Mei Lu, Richard E. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Scope: The Soybean (Glycine max) leghemoglobin c2 (LegHb) gene was introduced into Pichia pastoris yeast for sustainable production of a heme-carrying protein, for organoleptic use in plant-based meat. The potential allergenicity and toxicity of LegHb and 17 Pichia host-proteins each representing ≥1% of total protein in production batches are evaluated by literature review, bioinformatics sequence comparisons to known allergens or toxins, and in vitro pepsin digestion. Methods and results: Literature searches found no evidence of allergenicity or toxicity for these proteins. There are no significant sequence matches of LegHb to known allergens or toxins. Eleven Pichia proteins have modest identity matches to minor environmental allergens and 13 Pichia proteins have significant matches to proteins from toxic sources. Yet the matched allergens and toxins have similar matches to proteins from the commonly consumed yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, without evidence of food allergy or toxicity. The demonstrated history of safe use indicates additional tests for allergenicity and toxicity are not needed. The LegHb and Pichia sp. proteins were rapidly digested by pepsin at pH 2. Conclusion: These results demonstrate that foods containing recombinant soy LegHb produced in Pichia sp. are unlikely to present an unacceptable risk of allergenicity or toxicity to consumers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1700297
JournalMolecular Nutrition and Food Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • GMO
  • allergenicity
  • bioinformatics
  • hemoglobin
  • toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science


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