A novel chymotrypsin which is expressed in the midgut of the lepidopteran insect Spodoptera exigua is described. This enzyme, referred to as SeCT34, represents a novel class of chymotrypsins. Its amino-acid sequence shares common features of gut chymotrpysins, but can be clearly distinguished from other serine proteinases that are expressed in the insect gut. Most notable, SeCT34 contains a chymotrypsin activation site and the highly conserved motive DSGGP in the catalytic domain around the active-site serine is changed to DSGSA. Recombinant expression of SeCT34 was achieved in Sf21 insect cells using a special baculovirus vector, which has been engineered for optimized protein production. This is the first example of recombinant expression of an active serine proteinase which functions in the lepidopteran digestive tract. Purified recombinant SeCT34 enzyme was characterized by its ability to hydrolyze various synthetic substrates and its susceptibility to proteinase inhibitors. It appeared to be highly selective for substrates carrying a phenylalanine residue at the cleavage site. SeCT34 showed a pH-dependence and sensitivity to inhibitors, which is characteristic for semi-purified lepidopteran gut proteinases. Expression analysis revealed that SeCT34 was only expressed in the midgut of larvae at the end of their last instar, just before the onset of pupation. This suggests a possible role of this protein in the proteolytic remodelling that occurs in the gut during the larval to pupal molt.
- bacillus-thuringiensis toxins