Aquaporins from food sources show similarity to human aquaporin, and thus they have high potential for triggering autoimmunity to nervous system tissues.
Aquaporins, also known as ‘water channels,’ are integral membrane proteins that conduct water molecules in and out of cells in the human body. Aquaporins from food sources are highly stable in food preparation and therefore may reach the gastrointestinal as intact proteins or peptides.
In cases of breakdown in immunological tolerance, aquaporins from foods may become antigenic, and the immune reaction against them could result in antibody production. Aquaporins from some food sources show similarity with human aquaporin.
The food sources of AQP4 that have been shown to cross-react with human AQP4 include soy, corn, spinach and tomato.
Aquaporin also cross-reacts with legume serine proteinase inhibitors (serpins) found in beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, lupin, alfalfa, and clover.
If these antibodies cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in susceptible individuals, it can result in neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a form of MS. These are severe neuroautoimmune disorders that affect the gray and white matter in the brain and spinal cord, causing demyelination, axonal damage and necrosis, ultimately resulting in paralysis and sensory loss.
Seventy-five percent of NMO cases are associated with IgG1 antibody development that binds selectively to aquaporin-4 (AQP4), which is expressed in the astrocytic foot processes around the BBB. This can be of clinical importance for adjusting the diet in patients with demyelinating disorders such as MS and NMO and/or those with a family history of such disorders.
Abstain from all antigenic aquaporin-containing foods and follow up with blood brain barrier permeability and neurological tissue autoimmune reactivity testing.
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