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J Biol Chem. 1994 Aug 19;269(33):20971-6.

Isolation, cloning, and characterization of new chitinase stored in active form in chitin-lined venom reservoir.

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Graduate Center for Toxicology, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40506.


A 52-kDa protein was purified from the venom gland of an endoparasitic wasp Chelonus sp. near curvimaculatus. The acidic protein (pl 4.8-5.0) was purified, and the NH2-terminal amino acid sequence was determined by direct protein sequencing. A vector-anchored primer and a degenerate primer derived from an 8-amino acid region of the NH2 terminus were used in anchored polymerase chain reaction to generate a probe for screening a cDNA library prepared from mRNA from the venom gland of this wasp. A positive clone of 1596 nucleotides was isolated, sequenced, and found to contain an open reading frame encoding a protein of 483 amino acids. The amino acid sequence encoded in the cDNA clone at the amino terminus was identical to the sequence determined from the purified 52-kDa protein. Comparison of the inferred protein sequence against all of the sequences in the GenBank data base revealed a high degree of similarity to a 62-kDa insect chitinase that is expressed at each molt for the purpose of digesting the chitinous insect cuticle. Two regions that are conserved in a group of chitinases from insects, bacteria and fungi, were also conserved in the wasp 52-kDa protein. The region between amino acid residues 382 and 464 in the 52-kDa wasp chitinase markedly differed in primary sequence from the corresponding region in the 62-kDa insect chitinase, although this region in both the proteins is predicted to have a similar secondary structure predominantly of coils and turns. This region may impart unique structural properties to the 52-kDa chitinase that enables it to exist in an active form in a chitin-lined reservoir without exerting an autotoxic effect to digest the cuticular storage reservoir. Chitinolytic activity occurring in the total venom gland extract was kinetically indistinguishable from that observed for the purified 52-kDa protein, including the substrate concentrations at which maximal velocity and substrate inhibition were reached. The kinetic properties of the 52-kDa wasp chitinase were quite distinct from Serratia marcescens chitinase for both catalytic rate and substrate inhibition.

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