Plant defensins are small (45–54 amino acids), highly basic, cysteine-rich peptides structurally related to defensins of other organisms, including insects and mammals. Small putative proteins (MW < 10 kDa) containing eight cysteines were screened based on the sugarcane expressed sequence tag (EST) database. We selected ORFs that exhibited 25–100% similarity in primary sequence with other defensins in the NCBI database and that contained eight cysteines. This similarity is sufficient for folding prediction, but not enough for biological activity inference. Six putative defensins (Sd1-6) were selected, and activity assays showed that recombinant Sd1, Sd3 and Sd5 are active against fungi, but not against bacteria. Structural characterization, based on circular dichroism (CD) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy showed that the structures of these Sds were compatible with α/β proteins, a feature expected for plant defensins. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that sugarcane defensins could clearly be grouped within defensins from Poaceae family and Andropogoneae tribe. Our work demonstrates that defensins show strong conservation in the Poaceae family and may indicate that the same conservation occurs in other families. We suggest that evolutionary relationships within plant families can be used as a procedure to predict and annotate new defensins in genomes and group them in evolutionary classes to help in the investigation of their biological function.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 12, 2008
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