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Phytochemistry. 2008 Jan;69(1):18-28. Epub 2007 Aug 15.

Insights into the role and structure of plant ureases.

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Departamento de Físico-Química, Instituto de Química, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, CT, Bloco A S410, Rio de Janeiro 21941-909, Brazil.


The broad distribution of ureases in leguminous seeds, as well as the accumulation pattern of the protein during seed maturation, are suggestive of an important physiological role for this enzyme. Since the isolation and characterization of jack bean urease by Sumner in 1926, many investigations have been dedicated to the structural and biological features of this enzyme; nevertheless, many questions still remain. It has been reported that ureases from plants (jack bean and soybean seeds) display biological properties unrelated to their ureolytic activity, notably a high insecticidal activity against Coleoptera (beetles) and Hemiptera (bugs), suggesting that ureases might be involved in plant defense. Besides the insecticidal activity, canatoxin, a jack bean urease isoform, causes convulsions and death in mice and rats, induces indirect hemagglutination (hemilectin activity) and promotes exocytosis in several cell types. Not only plant ureases but also some microbial ureases (found in Bacillus pasteurii and Helicobacter pylori) are able to induce activation of platelets in a process mediated by lipoxygenase-derived metabolites. This review summarizes the biological and structural properties of plant ureases, compares them with those displayed by bacterial ureases, and discusses the significance of these findings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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