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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2000 Apr 15;376(2):259-65.

Sweetness determinant sites of brazzein, a small, heat-stable, sweet-tasting protein.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Brazzein, originally isolated from the fruit of the African plant Pentadiplandra brazzeana Baillon, is the smallest, most heat-stable and pH-stable member of the set of proteins known to have intrinsic sweetness. These properties make brazzein an ideal system for investigating the chemical and structural requirements of a sweet-tasting protein. We have used the three-dimensional structure of the protein (J. E. Caldwell et al. (1998) Nat. Struct. Biol. 5, 427-431) as a guide in designing 15 synthetic genes in expression constructs aimed at delineating the sweetness determinants of brazzein. Protein was produced heterologously in Escherichia coli, isolated, and purified as described in the companion paper (Assadi-Porter, F. M., Aceti, D., Cheng, H., and Markley, J. L., this issue). Analysis by one-dimensional (1)H NMR spectroscopy indicated that all but one of these variants had folded properly under the conditions used. A taste panel compared the gustatory properties of solutions of these proteins to those of sucrose and brazzein isolated from fruit. Of the 14 mutations in the des-pGlu1-brazzein background, four exhibited almost no sweetness, six had significantly reduced sweetness, two had taste properties equivalent to des-pGlu1-brazzein (two times as sweet as the major form of brazzein isolated from fruit which contains pGlu1), and two were about twice as sweet as des-pGlu1-brazzein. Overall, the results suggest that two regions of the protein are critical for the sweetness of brazzein: a region that includes the N- and C-termini of the protein, which are located close to one another, and a region that includes the flexible loop around Arg43.

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