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Plant Physiol. 2000 Apr;122(4):1015-24.

Purification, characterization, and molecular cloning of the gene of a seed-specific antimicrobial protein from pokeweed.

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The National Laboratory of Membrane Biology, College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.


A small cysteine-rich protein with antimicrobial activity was isolated from pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) seeds and purified to homogeneity. The protein inhibits the growth of several filamentous fungi and gram-positive bacteria. The protein was highly basic, with a pI higher than 10. The entire amino acid sequence of the protein was determined to be homologous to antimicrobial protein (AMP) from Mirabilis jalapa. The cDNA encoding the P. americana AMP (Pa-AMP-1) and chromosomal DNA containing the gene were cloned and sequenced. The deduced amino acid sequence shows the presence of a signal peptide at the amino terminus, suggesting that the protein is synthesized as a preprotein and secreted outside the cells. The chromosomal gene shows the presence of an intron located within the region encoding the signal peptide. Southern hybridization showed that there was small gene family encoding Pa-AMP. Immunoblotting showed that Pa-AMP-1 was only present in seeds, and was absent in roots, leaves, and stems. The Pa-AMP-1 protein was secreted into the environment of the seeds during germination, and may create an inhibitory zone against soil-borne microorganisms. The disulfide bridges of Pa-AMP-1 were identified. The three-dimensional modeling of Pa-AMP-1 indicates that the protein has a small cystine-knot folding, a positive patch, and a hydrophobic patch.

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