GENET archive


2-Plants: On hypoallergenic GE apples

                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Swedes develop anti-allergy apple
SOURCE: Food Business Review Online
        posted by Checkbiotech, Switzerland
DATE:   6 Oct 2005

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Swedes develop anti-allergy apple

Swedish scientists have developed an apple with a reduced amount of the
protein Ma1 d 1, which is known to cause allergic reactions.

Ma1 d 1 is found in certain plant-derived foods such as apples,
strawberries and carrots. The protein is similar to that which is found
in birch pollen, a common cause for allergies across Northern Europe.
Studies have shown that commonly used apple cultivars like Granny Smith,
Golden Delicious and Cox Orange are highly allergenic as they contain
high levels of Mal d 1.

The department of crop science at SLU in Balsgard, Southern Sweden
developed the new apple in response to the growing allergen-free food and
beverage market. In Sweden, up to 90% of birch pollen allergic patients
are sensitized to apples, with symptoms like itching and swelling of
lips, tongue and throat after ingestion.

Scientists at SLU said they must investigate where the best conditions
for growing the new apple can be found. As such, the product is not due
to hit the market for another four to five years.

                                  PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Wageningen research brings allergen-free apple within reach
SOURCE: Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands
        posted by Checkbiotech, Switzerland
DATE:   6 Jul 2005

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Wageningen research brings allergen-free apple within reach

Approximately 2% of the West-European population has an apple allergy. By
combining genetic data with the results of skin prick tests in allergic
patients, more insight has been gained into the involvement of specific
allergen genes in this type of allergy. For his thesis at Wageningen
University, Zhongshan Gao identified and localised genes which are
involved in the allergenicity. The results represent a step forward in
the identification, breeding and development of low allergenic apple

Apple is the most cultivated fruit crop in temperate areas.

Understanding of apple genetics has increased due to the development of
genetic maps and techniques. This provided molecular markers with which
seedlings can be tested for resistance to certain plant diseases. The use
of markers for allergy research is new.

It has previously been proven that apple allergy is caused by one or more
proteins in apple (the so-called Mal d1- till Mal d4-proteins). Mal d1 is
the most important allergen in apple. People who are allergic to the Mal
d1 protein feel itching, prickling and a swelling of the lips, tongue and
throat after eating a fresh apple.

Gao's thesis explains that the exact identification of the genes involved
in allergenicity is a major challenge for two reasons. Firstly, more
allergens can play a role together. Secondly, patients differ from each
other in their sensitivity to these allergens and their varieties.

The aim of Gao's study was to trace and characterise the genes which are
decisive for the amino acid compound of the four most important
allergenic protein types. Another goal of the project was to develop
genetic markers for already predicting at the seedling stage whether or
not an apple contains allergenic proteins.

Gao found 26 genes, 18 of which coded for the Mal d1 protein. This
allergen is especially relevant to patients in North West Europe, who
also suffer from hay fever in the spring as a reaction to birch pollen.
Gao's research showed that the Mal d 1 genes are lying on three
chromosomes, with the genes on chromosome 16 playing a clear role in the
allergenicity. In addition, it appeared that the amount of Mal d1 protein
was less important than the amino acid composition. Until now, medical
studies have primarily focused on the quantity.

Partially because of the results of this study and the use of modern
technologies such as marker assisted breeding and reduction in gene
activity, the future may bring new less-allergenic apple varieties on the
market. These will allow apple allergic patients to eat the fruit without
experiencing any discomfort. The results can also be used for genetic
research in other fruit crops such as pear and peach, which contain
similar allergens.

Zhongshan Gao collected his doctorate at Wageningen University and
Research Centre on 30 June with his study "Localization of candidate
allergen genes on the apple (Malus domestica) genome and their putative

Gao's thesis was part of the EU-SAFE project, a large European
interdisciplinary consortium, and he is the first person to graduate from
the Allergy Consortium Wageningen. Subsequent studies will take place as
part of the EU project ISAFRUIT, within which apple allergy and the
making/selection of hypoallergenic cultivars will form a significant part.

Note to the editor

More detailed information is available from
Luud Gilissen ( /+ 31 (0)317 477168 or +31
(0)371 483078) or
Eric van de Weg ( +31 (0)371 477281).

Illustrative material can be obtained from Edwin Luijks
( +31 (0)371 483915)


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