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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Nitrile-specifier proteins involved in glucosinolate hydrolysis in Arabidopsis thaliana

Ralph Kissen, Atle M Bones
Journal of Biological Chemistry 2009 May 1, 284 (18): 12057-70
19224919
Glucosinolates are plant secondary metabolites present in Brassicaceae plants such as the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Intact glucosinolates are believed to be biologically inactive, whereas degradation products after hydrolysis have multiple roles in growth regulation and defense. The degradation of glucosinolates is catalyzed by thioglucosidases called myrosinases and leads by default to the formation of isothiocyanates. The interaction of a protein called epithiospecifier protein (ESP) with myrosinase diverts the reaction toward the production of epithionitriles or nitriles depending on the glucosinolate structure. Here we report the identification of a new group of nitrile-specifier proteins (AtNSPs) in A. thaliana able to generate nitriles in conjunction with myrosinase and a more detailed characterization of one member (AtNSP2). Recombinant AtNSP2 expressed in Escherichia coli was used to test its impact on the outcome of glucosinolate hydrolysis using a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry approach. AtNSP proteins share 30-45% sequence homology with A. thaliana ESP. Although AtESP and AtNSP proteins can switch myrosinase-catalyzed degradation of 2-propenylglucosinolate from isothiocyanate to nitrile, only AtESP generates the corresponding epithionitrile. Using the aromatic benzylglucosinolate, recombinant AtNSP2 is also able to direct product formation to the nitrile. Analysis of glucosinolate hydrolysis profiles of transgenic A. thaliana plants overexpressing AtNSP2 confirms its nitrile-specifier activity in planta. In silico expression analysis reveals distinctive expression patterns of AtNSPs, which supports a biological role for these proteins. In conclusion, we show that AtNSPs belonging to a new family of A. thaliana proteins structurally related to AtESP divert product formation from myrosinase-catalyzed glucosinolate hydrolysis and, thereby, likely affect the biological consequences of glucosinolate degradation. We discuss similarities and properties of AtNSPs and related proteins and the biological implications.

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