The bacterial single-cell protein BioProtein (BP; Norferm Danmark, Odense, Denmark), produced by fermentation of natural gas with methanotrophic bacteria, is a potential protein source for man and animals. For human consumption, removal of the nucleic acid is necessary. Preliminary studies have shown that ingested BP induces a specific immune response. The objective of the present study was to characterize the type of response, its development over time and product-related causative factors. Mice were fed with diets containing 60 g nucleic acid-reduced BP/kg, 240 g nucleic acid-reduced BP/kg, 240 g untreated BP (basic BP)/kg or 240 g casein/kg (control). In another study, mice were fed 240 g basic BP/kg, whole cell-free BP-culture homogenate or control diet. The immune response was monitored using an ELISA for BP-specific immunoglobulin in blood and BP-specific immunoglobulin A in blood and saliva. Ingested BP induced a steady specific mucosal and systemic immune response, characterized by a dose-dependent production of immunoglobulin and immunoglobulin A in blood and immunoglobulin A in saliva. Basic BP and nucleic acid-reduced BP induced identical responses. However, feeding mice BP-culture homogenate induced immunoglobulin A in saliva but there was no systemic response. The antibodies from BP-fed mice cross-reacted with BP-culture homogenate revealing the presence of the same antigenic components in the two products despite the different oral immunogenicity. Thus, ingestion of BP induces a persistent mucosal and systemic immune response of which the systemic response can be avoided by ingesting a BP preparation free of whole cells. This indicates the importance of the non-particulate constitution of single-cell protein products intended for human or animal consumption.
Christensen, H. R., Larsen, L. C., & Frøkiær, H. (2003). The oral immunogenicity of BioProtein, a bacterial single-cell protein, is affected by its particulate nature. British Journal of Nutrition, 90(1), 169-178. https://doi.org/10.1079/BJN2003863