Sensitive gluten determination in gluten-free foods by an electrochemical aptamer-based assay
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Enzyme immunoassays are currently the methods of choice for gluten control in foods labelled as gluten free, providing a mechanism for assessing food safety for consumption by coeliac and other allergic patients. However, their limitations, many of them associated to the reactivity of the different antibodies used and their degree of specificity, have prevented the establishment of a standardised method of analysis. We explore new methods for quantitatively determining gluten content in foods based on the use of two recently described aptamers, raised against a 33-mer peptide recognised as the immunodominant fragment from α2-gliadin. The assays use the target peptide immobilised onto streptavidin-coated magnetic beads in combination with a limited amount of biotin-aptamer in a competitive format, followed by streptavidin-peroxidase labelling of the aptamer that remains bound to the magnetic beads. The enzyme activity onto the beads, measured by chronoamperometry in disposable screen-printed electrodes, is inversely related to the target concentration in the test solution. We find that while the assay using the aptamer with the highest affinity towards the target (Gli 4) achieves low detection limits (~0.5 ppm) and excellent analytical performance, when challenged in samples containing the intact protein, gliadin, it fails in detecting the peptide in solution. This problem is circumvented by employing another aptamer (Gli 1), the most abundant one in the SELEX pool, as a receptor. The proposed assays allow the convenient detection of the allergen in different kinds of food samples, including heat-treated and hydrolysed ones. The obtained results correlate with those of commercially available antibody-based assays, providing an alternative for ensuring the safety and quality of nominally gluten-free foods.
KeywordsAptamer Coeliac disease Electrochemical detection Gliadin analysis Gluten 33-mer peptide
SAG thanks the Spanish Government for a predoctoral FPI grant. This work was financed by Spanish Government Project CTQ2012-31157 and the European Regional Development Fund.
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