Gene sequences encoding ribosome-inactivating proteins from soapwort (Saponaria officinalis L.)
Ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs) are found in a wide variety of plant species. They possess an RNA N-glycosidase activity whereby the removal of a specific adenine residue from 28 S RNA renders a eukaryotic ribosome inactive. Type II RIPS contain both an active polypeptide and a sugar-binding polypeptide. Type I RIPs are composed of a single polypeptide functionally homologous to the active type II polypeptide. This thesis describes studies of the gene sequences of RIPs representative of each class: Ricin, a type II RIP from the castor oil plant (Ricinus communis h.), and saporin, a type I RIP from soapwort (Saponaria officinalis L.). Two ricin gene sequences were isolated from a Ricinus genomic library and partially characterised. One gene was a badly damaged ricin-like pseudogene whilst the other was shown to encode an active polypeptide. A second ricin sequence encoding an active polypeptide was isolated using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PGR) DNA amplification. The specificity of PGR amplification was investigated using the ricin and related agglutinin gene sequences. Partial amino acid sequence data derived from protein sequencing of saporin-6 was used to synthesise degenerate inosine-containing oligonucleotides. These directed the PGR amplification of part of the saporin coding sequence from genomic DNA. The product was used as a saporin-specific hybridisation probe. Southern analysis of Saponaria genomic DNA indicated that saporin sequences comprised a small multigene family. Three independent saporin containing genomic clones were isolated from a Saponaria genomic library. Two clones were truncated whilst the third contained a complete saporin coding sequence. The saporin and ricin coding sequences were expressed in vitro and shown to inhibit protein synthesis. Aniline cleavage assays of ribosomal RNA extracted from ribosomes exposed to the products of the RIP coding sequences were carried out. These indicated that the polypeptides encoded by the RIP gene sequences had specific RNA N-glycosidase activity.