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What are Gliadin and Glutenin?

Spencer Cailas

Being armed with the right information can help you make decisive choices about your diet and even negate the effects that are giving you sleepless nights.

Before Gluten snowballed into one of the most debated subjects in recent times, most people were unaware of what constitutes this complex protein, which is apparently causing a whole host of health problems.

Even now, most people identify it as the ingredient to be eschewed, rather than understanding what gives it the bad rap.

So, today we look at the two siblings inside Gluten that form the crux of this protein group and are responsible for the tumble in reputation that it has suffered.


This bad boy is the culprit behind most of the symptoms commonly associated with gluten intolerance. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to label the condition as Gliadin intolerance instead. Gliadin is one of the two molecules that forms the larger Gluten molecule. The brethren being Glutenin, of course.

Contrary to what people believe, Gliadin and Glutenin are prolamins only found in wheat. The other grains which have an equally notorious reputation of triggering intolerance symptoms, contain other proteins. Barley for example, has hordein. Rye, has secalin. They are almost identical in structure though.

The common link among all these proteins which cause the Celiac disease symptoms in intolerant people, is a sequence of peptides that are considered by the body’s immune system as invaders.

Let me simplify it further.

Proteins are made of polypeptides, which are nothing but a branched chain of amino acids. The sequence in which a particular amino acid chain is arranged is called the peptide sequence and is used to identify that particular protein, which in this case, is Gliadin. Gliadin has a polypeptide sequence of 19 amino acids in an identifiable sequence.

The caveat is that the body’s immune system also relies on the same peptide sequence to identity invaders like viruses and bacteria. Once it detects an invader, the body’s self-defense mechanism kicks in and it starts to make the appropriate antibodies to attack that particular peptide sequence.

When the intolerant peptide sequence in gluten proteins is detected, the immune system responds by creating antibodies and this response also triggers the inflammation and other symptoms that are associated with gluten intolerance.

There are four types of Gliadin which have been studied. They are α-, β-, γ-, and ω-gliadin. Considering that the molecule is solely found in wheat, a lot of gluten free foods have the label solely because they do not contain gliadin. The other forms of proteins may still be present.

To be completely ‘Gluten free’, a food must not contain any of the peptides from wheat, rye, barley, and oats (contamination during processing)