Microbial transglutaminase (mTG) is a survival factor for microbes, but yeasts, fungi, and plants also produce transglutaminase. mTG is a cross-linker that is heavily consumed as a protein glue in multiple processed food industries. According to the manufacturers’ claims, microbial transglutaminase and its cross-linked products are safe, i.e., nonallergenic, nonimmunogenic, and nonpathogenic. The regulatory authorities declare it as “generally recognized as safe” for public users. However, scientific observations are accumulating concerning its undesirable effects on human health. Functionally, mTG imitates its family member, tissue transglutaminase, which is the autoantigen of celiac disease. Both these transglutaminases mediate cross-linked complexes, which are immunogenic in celiac patients. The enzyme enhances intestinal permeability, suppresses mechanical (mucus) and immunological (anti phagocytic) enteric protective barriers, stimulates luminal bacterial growth, and augments the uptake of gliadin peptide. mTG and gliadin molecules are cotranscytosed through the enterocytes and deposited subepithelially. Moreover, mucosal dendritic cell surface transglutaminase induces gliadin endocytosis, and the enzyme-treated wheat products are immunoreactive in CD patients. The present review summarizes and updates the potentially detrimental effects of mTG, aiming to stimulate scientific and regulatory debates on its safety, to protect the public from the enzyme’s unwanted effects.
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