Grass group I pollen allergens (β-expansins) lack proteinase activity and do not cause wall loosening via proteolysis

An Chao Li, Daniel J. Cosgrove

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65 Scopus citations


Group I grass pollen allergens make up a subgroup of the β-expansin family of cell wall loosening proteins in plants. A recent study reported that recombinant Phl p 1, the group I allergen from timothy grass pollen, was associated with papain-like proteinase activity and suggested that expansins loosen the plant cell wall via proteolysis. We tested this idea with three experimental approaches. First, we evaluated three purified native group I allergens from timothy grass, ryegrass and maize (Phl p 1, Lol p 1, Zea m 1) using five proteinase assays with a variety of substrates. The proteins had substantial wall loosening activity, but no detectable proteolytic activity. Thus we cannot confirm proteolytic activity in the pollen allergen class of β-expansins. Second, we tested the ability of proteinases to induce cell wall extension in vitro. Tests included cysteine proteinases, serine proteinases, aspartic proteinases, metallo proteinases, and aggressive proteinase mixtures, none of which induced wall extension in vitro. Thus, wall proteins are unlikely to be important load-bearing components of the plant cell wall. Third, we tested the sensitivity of β-expansin activity and native wall extension activity to proteinase inhibitors. The results show that a wide range of proteinase inhibitors (phenylmethanesulfonyl fluoride, N-ethylmaleimide, iodoacetic acid, Pefabloc SC, and others) inhibited neither activity. From these three sets of results we conclude proteolysis is not a likely mechanism of plant cell wall loosening and that the pollen allergen class of β-expansins do not loosen cell walls via a proteolytic mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4217-4226
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Biochemistry
Issue number15
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry


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