Purification and characterisation of Tex31, a conotoxin precursor processing protease, isolated from the venom duct of Conus textile

Milne, Trudy Jane (2008) Purification and characterisation of Tex31, a conotoxin precursor processing protease, isolated from the venom duct of Conus textile. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The venom of cone snails (predatory marine molluscs of the genus Conus) has yielded a rich source of novel neuroactive peptides or “conotoxins”. Conotoxins are bioactive peptides found in the venom duct of Conus spp. Like other neuropeptides, conotoxins are expressed as propeptides that undergo posttranslational proteolytic processing. Peptides derived from propeptides are typically cleaved at a pair of dibasic residues (Lys-Arg, Arg-Arg, Lys-Lys or Arg-Lys) by proteases found in secretory vesicles. However, many precursor peptides contain multiple sets of basic residues, suggesting that highly substrate specific or differentially expressed proteases can determine processing outcomes. As many of the substrate-specific proteases remain unidentified, predicting new bioactive peptides from cDNA sequences is presently difficult, if not impossible. In order to understand more about the substrate specificity of conotoxin substrate-specific proteases a characterisation study of one such endoprotease isolated from the venom duct of Conus textile was undertaken. The C. textile mollusc was chosen as a good source from which to isolate the endoprotease for two reasons; firstly, these cone shells are found in great abundance on the Great Barrier Reef (Queensland, Australia) and are readily obtainable and secondly, a number of conotoxin precursors and their cleavage products have been previously identified in the venom duct. In order to purify the endoprotease an activity-guided fractionation protocol that included a para-nitroanilide (p-NA) substrate assay was developed. The p-NA substrate mimicked the cleavage site of the conotoxin TxVIA, a member of the C. textile O-superfamily of toxins. The protocol included a number of chromatographic techniques including ion exchange, size-exclusion and reverse-phased HPLC and resulted in isolation of an active protease, termed Tex31, to >95% purity. The purification of microgram quantities of Tex31 made it possible to characterise the proteolytic nature of Tex31 and to further characterise the O-superfamily conopeptide propeptide cleavage site specificity. Specificity experiments showed Tex31 requires a minimum of four residues including a leucine in the P4 position (LNKR↓) for efficient substrate processing. The complete sequence of Tex31 was determined from cDNA. A BLAST search revealed Tex31 to have high amino acid sequence similarity to the CAP (abbreviated from CRISP (Cysteine-rich secretory protein), Antigen 5 and PR-1 (pathogenesis-related protein)) superfamily and most closely related to the CRISP family of mammalian and venom proteins that, like Tex31, have a cysteine-rich C-terminal domain. The CAP superfamily is widely distributed in the animal, plant and fungal kingdoms, and is implicated in processes as diverse as human brain tumour growth and plant pathogenesis. This is the first report of a biological role for the N-terminal domain of CAP proteins. A homology model of Tex31 constructed from two PR-1 proteins, Antigen 5 and P14a, revealed the highly conserved and likely catalytic residues, His78, Ser99 and Glu115. These three amino acids fall within a structurally conserved N-terminal domain found in all CAP proteins. It is possible that other CAP proteins are also substrate-specific proteases. With no homology to any known proteases, Tex31 may belong to a new class of protease. The sequence alignment of five Tex31-like proteins cloned from C. marmoreus, C. litteratus, C. arentus, C. planboris, and C. omaria show very high sequence similarity to Tex31 (~80%), but only one weakly conserved serine residue was identified when the conserved residues of the new Tex31-like protein sequences were aligned with members of the CAP superfamily. Future work to identify members of catalytic diad or triad, e.g. by site-directed mutagenesis, will rely on the expression of active recombinant Tex31. In this study neither Escherichia coli nor Pichia pastoris expression systems yielded active recombinant Tex31 protein, possibly due to the number of cysteine residues hindering the expression of correctly folded active Tex31. This study has shown Tex31 to be highly sequence specific in its cleavage site and it is likely that this high substrate specificity has confounded previous attempts to identify the proteolytic nature of other CAP proteins. With the proteolytic nature of one member of the CAP protein family confirmed, it is hoped this important discovery may lead the way to discovering the role of other CAP family members.

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ID Code: 16960
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Walsh, Terence, Lewis, Richard, & Martin, Jenny
Keywords: Tex31, protease, Conus, O-superfamily, propeptide precursor, para-nitroanilide, substrate specificity, pathogenesis-related protein, CAP, PR-1, CRISP, homology model, recombinant protein expression
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 Dec 2008 01:00
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2017 14:40

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