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Biological Chemistry

Silent Treatment For Peanut Allergens

RNA interference strategy suggests a synthetic biology pathway to hypoallergenic peanuts

by Carmen Drahl
December 8, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 49

Credit: David Nance/Agricultural Research Service
Credit: David Nance/Agricultural Research Service

Peanut allergies are the most common cause of food-related deaths, but it might be possible to change that. A multi-institution team led by botanist Peggy Ozias-Akins of the University of Georgia, Tifton, has used RNA interference (RNAi) to show that lowering the levels of the two most intense peanut allergens might lead to fewer severe allergic reactions (J. Agric. Food Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jf802600r). To silence both offenders at once, the researchers inserted a specially designed DNA sequence into peanut plant embryos. The DNA triggered RNAi-based silencing machinery, making plants with significantly reduced levels of the two allergens. Although the axed allergens are thought to protect plants from fungal infections, the team found that the transgenic peanut plants were no more susceptible to a common fungus than normal plants. But eliminating every allergen in peanuts might not be feasible, and RNAi might not be a practical route for commercial peanut production, the authors write. Knocking out the allergen genes through mutagenesis, however, is a potential alternative, they note.


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