soybean varieties with no or reduced P34 protein
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reproducing hypoallergenic soybean
Searching for a soybean that doesn't contain the P34 protein
that is responsible for allergic reactions in 6 to 8 percent of
children is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But the
"needle" has been found.
"After screening over 11,000 plant types from the USDA germplasm
collection in Urbana, one confirmed P34 null line and approximately
91 lines with significantly reduced levels of P34 have been found,"
said Ted Hymowitz, a plant geneticist at the University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign. There are about 5,000 more plant types to be
tested, but the fact that one without the P34 protein has been found
Because soybeans are used in baby formula, a hypoallergenic soybean
would help reduce the percentage of infants who have allergic
responses to soy formula. An allergic response may include hives,
itching, diarrhea and, in rare cases, anaphylactic shock.
process we're using is looking for naturally occurring variants, so
there's no question about the safety of it," Hymowitz said. "We're
providing an alternate approach to genetically engineering for a P34
null line." Although a soybean without the P34 protein could be
produced using biotechnology, concerns about the use of transgenic
ingredients in baby food may make people worry. "While there is no
cause for concern in using biotechnology in baby food, people do
worry and may not buy it," he said.
After all of the plant types have been tested, the next step will be
to transfer the trait that suppresses the P34 protein into a
high-yielding, disease-resistant soybean cultivar. The first
soybeans to be tested were those that are currently grown
commercially. They all contain the P34 protein.
Hymowitz noted that eliminating the P34 protein doesn't affect the
nutritional content of the soybean.
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The testing process is slow; only 100 plant types can be tested
each day. "We're doing the qualitative analysis. Does it have the
protein or doesn't it? It's a dominant protein, so it's rare to find
ones that don't have it," said Hymowitz. "The ones we find with
little or no P34 are sent to Eliot Herman's USDA lab at the Donald
Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Mo. They do the
Leina Mary Joseph is in charge of the tedious task of testing the
seeds, using immunological procedures. "The Danforth lab uses a
different technique to confirm that the result we got is accurate,"
said Joseph. "We found a null that doesn't have any of the P34
protein, and it has been confirmed by their lab. We are already
growing some of the null and low-P34 protein lines in the greenhouse
so we'll have a good supply of seeds when we need them."
The research is being led by Ted Hymowitz of the University of
Illinois and Eliot Herman at the Danforth Center. Hymowitz is a
nationally recognized soybean geneticist. Herman is a molecular
biologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service and adjunct
professor of plant science at the University of Missouri. He is
located at the Danforth Center through a joint agreement between the
Danforth Center and USDA. Leina Mary Joseph of the U of I is a
co-investigator on the project.
Funding for the project is provided by the Illinois-Missouri
Biotechnology Alliance, with a special grant from USDA.
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of Illinois news release]