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Structural analysis of fibroin heavy chain signal peptide of silkworm Bombyx mori.

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Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200031, China.


To study the minimal length required for the secretion of recombinant proteins and silk proteins in posterior silk gland, the signal peptide (SP) of the fibroin heavy chain (FibH) of silkworm Bombyx mori was systematically shortened from the C-terminal. Its effect on the secretion of protein was observed using enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) as a reporter. Secretion of EGFP fusion proteins was examined under fluorescence microscope. FibH SPs with lengths of 20, 18, 16 and 12 a.a. can direct the secretion of the reporter, yet those with lengths of 11, 10, 9, 8 and 1 a.a. can not. When the FibH SP was shortened to 12 a.a., the secretion efficiency was decreased slightly and cleavage occurred within EGFP. When 16 a.a. of the FibH SP were used, the secretion of fusion protein was normal and the cleavage site was between the Gly-Ser linker and Met, the starting amino acid of EGFP. These findings are applicable for the expression of foreign proteins in silkworm silk gland. The cleavage site of the SP is discussed and compared with the predictive results of the SignalP 3.0 online prediction program.

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