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Open Access Research article

Characterizing structural features of cuticle-degrading proteases from fungi by molecular modeling

Shu-Qun Liu1, Zhao-Hui Meng12, Jin-Kui Yang1, Yun-Xin Fu13* and Ke-Qin Zhang1*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-resources, Yunnan University, Tel. 86-871-5034878, Fax. 86-871-5034838, Yunnan, Kunming 650091, PR China

2 Department of Cardiology, No. 1 Affiliated Hospital, Kunming Medical College, Yunnan, Kunming, 650032, PR China

3 Human Genetics Center, School of Public Health, The University of Texas Health Science Center, 1200 Herman Pressler, Room E453, Houston, Texas 77030, USA

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BMC Structural Biology 2007, 7:33  doi:10.1186/1472-6807-7-33

Published: 18 May 2007



Serine proteases secreted by nematode and insect pathogenic fungi are bio-control agents which have commercial potential for developing into effective bio-pesticides. A thorough understanding of the structural and functional features of these proteases would significantly assist with targeting the design of efficient bio-control agents.


Structural models of serine proteases PR1 from entomophagous fungus, Ver112 and VCP1 from nematophagous fungi, have been modeled using the homology modeling technique based on the crystal coordinate of the proteinase K. In combination with multiple sequence alignment, these models suggest one similar calcium-binding site and two common disulfide bridges in the three cuticle-degrading enzymes. In addition, the predicted models of the three cuticle-degrading enzymes present an essentially identical backbone topology and similar geometric properties with the exception of a limited number of sites exhibiting relatively large local conformational differences only in some surface loops and the N-, C termini. However, they differ from each other in the electrostatic surface potential, in hydrophobicity and size of the S4 substrate-binding pocket, and in the number and distribution of hydrogen bonds and salt bridges within regions that are part of or in close proximity to the S2-loop.


These differences likely lead to variations in substrate specificity and catalytic efficiency among the three enzymes. Amino acid polymorphisms in cuticle-degrading enzymes were discussed with respect to functional effects and host preference. It is hoped that these structural models would provide a further basis for exploitation of these serine proteases from pathogenic fungi as effective bio-control agents.