The legumain McPAL1 from Momordica cochinchinensis is a highly stable Asx-specific splicing enzyme

Liew, Heng Tai, et al. “The Legumain McPAL1 from Momordica Cochinchinensis Is a Highly Stable Asx-Specific Splicing Enzyme.” Journal of Biological Chemistry, Elsevier BV, Oct. 2021, p. 101325. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.jbc.2021.101325.


Legumains, also known as asparaginyl endopeptidases (AEPs), cleave peptide bonds after Asn/Asp (Asx) residues. In plants, certain legumains also have ligase activity that catalyzes biosynthesis of Asx-containing cyclic peptides. An example is the biosynthesis of MCoTI-I/II, a squash family-derived cyclic trypsin inhibitor, which involves splicing to remove the N-terminal prodomain and then N-to-C-terminal cyclization of the mature domain. To identify plant legumains responsible for the maturation of these cyclic peptides, we have isolated and characterized a legumain involved in splicing, McPAL1, from Momordica cochinchinensis (Cucurbitaceae) seeds. Functional studies show that recombinantly expressed McPAL1 displays a pH-dependent, trimodal enzymatic profile. At pH 4-6, McPAL1 selectively catalyzed Asp-ligation and Asn-cleavage, but at pH 6.5-8, Asn-ligation predominated. With peptide substrates containing N-terminal Asn and C-terminal Asp, such as is found in precursors of MCoTI-I/II, McPAL1 mediates proteolysis at the Asn site and then ligation at the Asp site at pH 5-6. Also, McPAL1 is an unusually stable legumain that is tolerant of heat and high pH. Together, our results support that McPAL1 is a splicing legumain at acidic pH that can mediate biosynthesis of MCoTI-I/II. We purport that the high thermal and pH stability of McPAL1 could have applications for protein engineering.