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Mol Biosyst. 2012 Oct 30;8(12):3335-43. doi: 10.1039/c2mb25320h.

Wheat Subtilisin/Chymotrypsin Inhibitor (WSCI) as a scaffold for novel serine protease inhibitors with a given specificity.

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Dipartimento per la Innovazione nei sistemi Biologici, Agroalimentari e Forestali, Università degli Studi della Tuscia, I-01100 Viterbo, Italy.


WSCI (Wheat Subtilisin/Chymotrypsin Inhibitor) is a small protein belonging to the Potato inhibitor I family exhibiting a high content of essential amino acid. In addition to bacterial subtilisins and mammalian chymotrypsins, WSCI inhibits chymotrypsin-like activities isolated from digestive traits of a number of insect larvae. In vivo, as suggested for many plant proteinase inhibitors, WSCI seems to play a role of natural defence against attacks of pests and pathogens. The functional region of WSCI, containing the inhibitor reactive site (Met48-Glu49), corresponds to an extended flexible loop (Val42-Asp53) whose architecture is somehow stabilized by a number of secondary interactions established with a small ╬▓-sheet located underneath. The aim of this study was to employ a WSCI molecule as a stable scaffold to obtain recombinant inhibitors with new acquired anti-proteinase activity or, alternatively, inactive WSCI variants. A gene sequence coding for the native WSCI, along with genes coding for muteins with different specficities, could be exploited to obtain transformed non-food use plants with improved insect resistance. On the other hand, the genetic transformation of cereal plants over-expressing inactive WSCI muteins could represent a possible strategy to improve the nutritional quality of cereal-based foods, without risk of interference with human or animal digestive enzymes. Here, we described the characterization of four muteins containing single/multiple amino acid substitutions at the WSCI reactive site and/or at its proximity. Modalities of interaction of these muteins with proteinases (subtilisin, trypsin and chymotrypsin) were investigated by time course hydrolysis and molecular simulations studies.

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