Novel Monomeric Fungal Subtilisin Inhibitor from a Plant-Pathogenic Fungus, Choanephora cucurbitarum: Isolation and Molecular Characterization

Duleepa Pathiraja, Youngeun Chun, Junghwan Cho, Byoungnam Min, Saeyoung Lee, Hongjae Park, Juan Byun, In Geol Choia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


sin inhibitors (SSI) are rarely found in fungi. Genome analysis of a fungal pathogen, Choanephora cucurbitarum KUS-F28377, revealed 11 SSI-like domains that are hori-zontally transferred and sequentially diverged during evolution. We investigated the molecular function of fungal SSI-like domains of C. cucurbitarum, designated “cho-anepins.” Among the proteins tested, only choanepin9 showed inhibitory activity against subtilisin as the target protease, accounting for 47% of the inhibitory activity of bacterial SSI. However, the binding affinity (expressed as the dissociation constant [Kd]) of choanepin9 measured via microscale thermophoresis was 21 nM, whereas that for bacterial SSI is 34 nM. The trend of binding and inhibitory activity suggests that the two inhibitors exhibit different inhibitory mechanisms for subtilisin protease. Interestingly, choanepin9 was identified as a monomer in studies in vitro, whereas bacterial SSI is a homodimer. Based on these observations, we constructed a mono-meric bacterial SSI protein with decreased binding affinity to abrogate its inhibitory activity. By altering the reactive sites of choanepin9 deduced from the P1 and P4 sites of bacterial SSI, we reestablished that these residues in choanepins are also crucial for modulating inhibitory activity. These findings suggest that the fungal SSI evolved to target specific cognate proteases by altering the residues involved in in-hibitory reactivity (reactive sites) and binding affinity (structural integrity). The func-tion of fungal SSI proteins identified in this study provides not only a clue to fungal pathogenesis via protease inhibition but also a template for the design of novel ser-ine protease inhibitors. IMPORTANCE Until recently, Streptomyces subtilisin inhibitors (SSI) were reported and characterized only in bacteria. We found SSI-like domains in a plant-pathogenic fungus, Choanephora cucurbitarum KUS-F28377, which contains 11 sequentially diverged SSI-like domains. None of these fungal SSI-like domains were functionally characterized before. The active form of fungal SSI-like protein is a monomer, in contrast to the homodimeric bacterial SSI. We constructed a synthetic monomer of bacterial SSI to demonstrate the modulation of its activity based on structural integrity and not re-active sites. Our results suggest the duplication and divergence of SSI-like domains of C. cucurbitarum within the genome to inhibit various cognate proteases during evolution by modulating both binding and reactivity. The molecular functional char-acterization of fungal SSI-like domains will be useful in understanding their biologi-cal role and future biotechnological applications. The bacterial protease inhibitor domains known as Streptomyces subtili-

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Nov


  • Choanephora cucurbitarum
  • Streptomyces subtilisin inhibitor
  • fungal protease inhibitor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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