Expression of functional plant lectins in heterologous systems
The mannose-binding lectin from snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis agglutinin; GNA) was produced in Escherichia coli and purified as a functional protein after denturation/renaturation. Incorporation of the four extra C-terminal residues recently revealed from X-ray crystallographic data demonstrated that these residues increase binding to the glycoprotein carboxypeptidase Y. However, no differences in activities were observed in haemagglutination assays when compared to native GNA and toxicity towards rice brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens', BPH) in artificial diet bioassays was unaltered. Site-directed mutagenesis of the carbohydrate-binding site of GNA provided evidence of a direct correlation between the binding potential of GNA to BPH gut glycoprotein 'receptors' and the toxicity levels of GNA towards BPH nymphs. Functional recombinant plant lectins GNA and PHA (Phaseolus vulgaris agglutinin) were expressed in Pichia pastoris using native signal peptides or the Saccharomyces a-factor prepro-sequence to direct secretion. The a-factor prepro-sequence was inefficiently processed unless Glu-Ala repeats were added at the C-terminal end. In the latter case, removal of the Glu-Ala repeats was itself inefficient leading to recombinant lectins with heterogenous N-termini. In contrast, PHA expressed with the native signal peptide was secreted, correctly processed and fully functional. No expression of GNA from a construct containing the native GNA signal peptide was observed. The PHA-E signal peptide directed correct processing and secretion of both GNA and green fluorescent protein (GFP) when used in expression constructs in Pichia. A fusion protein containing both GNA and GFP (GNA-GFP) was expressed in Pichia pastoris. Simultaneous dual activities (i.e. carbohydrate binding and fluorescence) of recombinant GNA-GFP were demonstrated. Partial cleavage in the linker region resulted in co-purification of GNA which increased the binding activity of the fusion protein. Selective binding of GNA-GFP to haemocytes in the haemolymph of Lacanobia oleracea was observed, both in vitro and when the protein was fed to insects in diet.