Mutational analysis of the pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) phloem exudate lectin, PP2 reveals Ser-104 is crucial for carbohydrate binding

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The pumpkin phloem lectin (PP2) is an RNA-binding, defence-related, chito-oligosaccharide-specific, homodimeric lectin of Mr 48 kDa expressed at high concentrations in the sieve elements and companion cells of pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima). In the present study, PP2 was expressed in the methylotrophic yeast Pichia pastoris with the Saccharomyces α-factor sequence to direct the recombinant protein into the secretory pathway as a prerequisite for unimpaired folding and posttranslational glycosylation of recombinant PP2. Previous computational modeling and ligand docking studies predicted a putative chitooligosaccharide-binding site on PP2 surface, which was divided into three subsites, with two amino acid residues in each subsite identified as possible candidates for interaction with chitooligosaccharides (CHOs). In this work, mutational analysis and hemagglutination assays were employed to verify the role of the predicted residues in the carbohydrate binding activity of the protein. The results obtained revealed that mutation of Ser-104 to Ala (S104A) at subsite-2 resulted in about 90% loss of agglutination activity of the protein, indicating that Ser-104 is crucial for the binding of CHOs to PP2. Also, L100A (at subsite-1) and K200A (at subsite-3) independently decreased the lectin activity by about 40%, indicating that these two residues also contribute significantly to sugar binding by PP2. Together, these findings confirm that all the three subsites contribute to varying degrees toward PP2-carbohydrate interaction, and confirm the validity of the computational model, proposed earlier.