Degradation of a peptide in pitcher fluid of the carnivorous plant Nepenthes alata Blanco
Carnivorous plants acquire substantial amounts of nitrogen from insects. The tropical carnivorous plant Nepenthes produces trapping organs called pitchers at the tips of tendrils elongated from leaf ends. Acidic fluid is secreted at the bottoms of the pitchers. The pitcher fluid includes several hydrolytic enzymes, and some, such as aspartic proteinase, are thought to be involved in nitrogen acquisition from insect proteins. To understand the nitrogen-acquisition process, it is essential to identify the protein-degradation products in the pitcher fluid. To gain insight into protein degradation in pitcher fluid, we used the oxidized B-chain of bovine insulin as a model substrate, and its degradation by the pitcher fluid of N. alata was investigated using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). LC-MS analysis of the degradation products revealed that the oxidized B-chain of bovine insulin was initially cleaved at aromatic amino acids such as phenylalanine and tyrosine. These cleavage sites are similar to those of aspartic proteinases from other plants and animals. The presence of a series of peptide fragments as degradation products suggests that exopeptidase(s) is also present in the pitcher fluid. Amino acid analysis and peptide fragment analysis of the degradation products demonstrated that three amino acids plus small peptides were released from the oxidized B-chain of bovine insulin, suggesting that insect proteins are readily degraded to small peptides and amino acids in the pitcher fluid of N. alata.
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