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Phytochemistry. 2004 Jan;65(1):7-17.

Cupins: the most functionally diverse protein superfamily?

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The BioCentre, School of Plant Sciences, The University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AS, UK.


The cupin superfamily of proteins, named on the basis of a conserved beta-barrel fold ('cupa' is the Latin term for a small barrel), was originally discovered using a conserved motif found within germin and germin-like proteins from higher plants. Previous analysis of cupins had identified some 18 different functional classes that range from single-domain bacterial enzymes such as isomerases and epimerases involved in the modification of cell wall carbohydrates, through to two-domain bicupins such as the desiccation-tolerant seed storage globulins, and multidomain transcription factors including one linked to the nodulation response in legumes. Recent advances in comparative genomics, and the resolution of many more 3-D structures have now revealed that the largest subset of the cupin superfamily is the 2-oxyglutarate-Fe(2+) dependent dioxygenases. The substrates for this subclass of enzyme are many and varied and in total amount to probably 50-100 different biochemical reactions, including several involved in plant growth and development. Although the majority of enzymatic cupins contain iron as an active site metal, other members contain either copper, zinc, cobalt, nickel or manganese ions as a cofactor, with each cofactor allowing a different type of chemistry to occur within the conserved tertiary structure. This review discusses the range of structures and functions found in this most diverse of superfamilies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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