Non-specific lipid transfer proteins (LTPs) are a family of lipid-binding molecules that are widely distributed across flowering plant species, many of which have been identified as allergens. They are highly resistant to simulated gastroduodenal proteolysis, a property that may play a role in determining their allergenicity and it has been suggested that lipid binding may further increase stability to proteolysis. It is demonstrated that LTPs from wheat and peach bind a range of lipids in a variety of conditions, including those found in the gastroduodenal tract. Both LTPs are initially cleaved during gastroduodenal proteolysis at three major sites between residues 39-40, 56-57 and 79-80, with wheat LTP being more resistant to cleavage than its peach ortholog. The susceptibility of wheat LTP to proteolyic cleavage increases significantly upon lipid binding. This enhanced digestibility is likely to be due to the displacement of Tyr79 and surrounding residues from the internal hydrophobic cavity upon ligand binding to the solvent exposed exterior of the LTP, facilitating proteolysis. Such knowledge contributes to our understanding as to how resistance to digestion can be used in allergenicity risk assessment of novel food proteins, including GMOs.
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