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Using human-severe combined immunodeficiency (hu-SCID) mice as a model for testing allergenicity of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

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GM peas expressing the alpha-amylase inhibitor (AAI) protein derived from common Tendergreen bean were created to protect them against infestation by pea weevils. Although animal models are used for studying allergenicity of GM containing foods, the correlation with human allergy remains controversial.


Our aim in this study was to establish a humanized mouse model to study GMOs by adoptively transferring peripheral blood mononuclear cells from AAI-specific IgE-positive legume allergic and non-allergic individuals into SCID mice. These mice were then gavaged twice weekly for 1 month with GM pea, non-transgenic pea and Tendergreen bean seed meal suspensions or PBS. Subsequently, mice were administered 1 dose of the purified AAI protein or PBS intranasally as a read out for an in vivo allergic response. Seventy-two hours later, no eosinophilia or mucus hypersecretion were observed in the lungs of mice treated with PBS or fed the non-transgenic peas.


In contrast, hu-SCID mice derived from allergic and non-allergic donors had intense allergic lung inflammation and mucus over production illustrating that AAI-containing seed meal feeding primed for allergic immune responses. However, there were no differences in the responses between hu-SCID mice derived from allergic and non-allergic donors. Because both donors had anti-AAI antibodies, we hypothesize that they were both sensitized to AAI and thus indistinguishable when their cells were exposed to AAI during feeding in the humanized mice.


This model provides new opportunities to investigate factors underlying the propensity to develop food allergy in individuals with antibodies to food allergens.

Disclosure of interest

None declared.

Author information

Correspondence to R Lee.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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About this article


  • Food Allergy
  • Food Allergen
  • Seed Meal
  • Bean Seed
  • Humanize Mouse