Tracking Gluten throughout Brewing Using N-Terminal Labeling Mass Spectrometry

Wanying Cao, Joseph L. Baumert, Melanie L. Downs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Gluten-containing grains cause adverse health effects in individuals with celiac disease. Fermentation of these grains results in gluten-derived polypeptides with largely uncharacterized sizes and sequences, which may still trigger an immune response. This research used N-terminal labeling mass spectrometry to characterize protein hydrolysates during each stage of bench-scale brewing, including malting, mashing, boiling, fermentation, and aging. Gluten hydrolysates from each brewing step were tracked, and the immunotoxic potential was evaluated by sequence comparison with peptides known to stimulate celiac immune responses. The results indicate that proteolysis and precipitation of gliadins occurring during brewing differ by protein region and brewing stage. The termini of gliadins were hydrolyzed throughout the entire brewing process, but the central regions remained relatively stable. Most hydrolysis occurred during malting, and most precipitation occurred during boiling. The addition of yeast yielded new cleavage sites but did not result in complete hydrolysis. Consistent detection of peptides within the clinically important regions of gliadin corroborated the hydrolytic resistance of this region. N-terminal labeling mass spectrometry served as a novel approach to track the fate of gliadin/gluten throughout bench-scale brewing. Consistently identified fragments could serve as improved targets for the detection of hydrolyzed gluten in fermented products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3230-3241
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of proteome research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 4 2021


  • N-terminal labeling
  • barley
  • beer
  • brewing
  • celiac disease
  • fermentation
  • gluten
  • mass spectrometry
  • wheat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Chemistry(all)


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