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A Single Amino Acid Substitution in the Antimicrobial Defense Protein Cecropin B Is Associated with Diminished Degradation by Leaf Intercellular Fluid

May 1997 , Volume 10 , Number  4
Pages  525 - 528

Lowell D. Owens and Thomas M. Heutte

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Plant Molecular Biology Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705, U.S.A.

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Accepted 4 February 1997.

Degradation is one of several factors that may affect the level of accumulation of transgene products in plants. In plants engineered to secrete antimicrobial proteins to the intercellular compartment of leaves, the degradative activity of proteases residing in leaf intercellular fluid (IF) could be critical to achieving the expected transgene function. We synthesized a structural analogue (MB39) of the antibacterial protein cecropin B and compared the susceptibility of both proteins to degradation in vitro by IF extracted from leaves of various crops. The half-life of the two proteins in the various IF extracts ranged from 3 min to 25.5 h, with the analogue MB39 displaying the longer half-life in IF from nine of 10 species. Overall, the half-life of MB39 averaged 2.9 times greater than that of cecropin B. Analysis of the peptides produced by endopeptidase activity in potato IF indicated that the 5.7-fold lower degradation rate of MB39 was associated with the substitution of valine for methionine at residue 11 of cecropin B. These findings point to the possibility of tailoring antimicrobial protein genes to reduce the rate of protein degradation in a particular target crop.

The American Phytopathological Society, 1997