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J Exp Bot. 2010 Jun;61(11):2951-65. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erq119. Epub 2010 May 11.

Petunia nectar proteins have ribonuclease activity.

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Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011 USA.


Plants requiring an insect pollinator often produce nectar as a reward for the pollinator's visitations. This rich secretion needs mechanisms to inhibit microbial growth. In Nicotiana spp. nectar, anti-microbial activity is due to the production of hydrogen peroxide. In a close relative, Petunia hybrida, limited production of hydrogen peroxide was found; yet petunia nectar still has anti-bacterial properties, suggesting that a different mechanism may exist for this inhibition. The nectar proteins of petunia plants were compared with those of ornamental tobacco and significant differences were found in protein profiles and function between these two closely related species. Among those proteins, RNase activities unique to petunia nectar were identified. The genes corresponding to four RNase T2 proteins from Petunia hybrida that show unique expression patterns in different plant tissues were cloned. Two of these enzymes, RNase Phy3 and RNase Phy4 are unique among the T2 family and contain characteristics similar to both S- and S-like RNases. Analysis of amino acid patterns suggest that these proteins are an intermediate between S- and S-like RNases, and support the hypothesis that S-RNases evolved from defence RNases expressed in floral parts. This is the first report of RNase activities in nectar.

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