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Ribosome-inactivating proteins: progress and problems

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Ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs), mostly from plants, are enzymes which depurinate rRNA, thus inhibiting protein synthesis. They also depurinate other polynucleotide substrates. The biological activity of RIPs is not completely clarified, and sometimes independent of the inhibition of protein synthesis. There are differences in the cytotoxicity of RIPs and, consequently, in their toxicity to animals. Some RIPs are potent toxins, the best known being ricin, a potential biological weapon. New toxins have recently been identified. RIPs cause apoptotic and necrotic lesions, and induce production of cytokines causing inflammation. RIPs are potentially useful in agriculture and medicine because (i) they have antiviral activity and (ii) they are used for the preparation of conjugates with antibodies (‘immunotoxins’) or other carriers, rendering them specifically toxic to the cell target of the carrier, which may be helpful in therapy. The distribution, mechanism of action and role in nature of RIPs are not completely understood, and we can expect several future developments in their practical application.

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Correspondence to F. Stirpe.

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Received 17 February 2006; received after revision 23 March 2006; accepted 2 May 2006

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Stirpe, F., Battelli, M.G. Ribosome-inactivating proteins: progress and problems. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 63, 1850–1866 (2006).

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