Molecular Cloning and Regulatory Analysis of the Cuticle-degrading Protease Structural Gene From the Entomopathogenic Fungus, Metarhizium Anisopliae

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Eur. J. Biochem.





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The proteinaceous insect cuticle is an effective barrier against most microbes, but entomopathogenic fungi can breach it using extracellular proteases. We report here the isolation and characterization of a cDNA clone of the cuticle-degrading protease (Pr1) of Metarhizium anisopliae. The cDNA sequence revealed that Pr1 is synthesized as a large precursor (40.3 kDa) containing a signal peptide, a propeptide and the mature protein predicted to have a molecular mass of 28.6 kDa. The primary structure of Pr1 has extensive similarity with enzymes of the subtilisin subclass of serine endopeptidases and the serine, histidine and aspartate components of the active site in subtilisins are preserved. Proteinase K demonstrated the closest sequence similarity to Pr1 (61%) but Pr1 was twofold more effective than proteinase K at degrading isolated cuticles of Manduca sexta and 33-fold more effective at degrading structural proteins bound to the cuticle by covalent bonds. We postulate that the additional positively charged residues on the surface of the Pr1 molecule, as determined using proteinase K, may facilitate electrostatic binding to cuticle proteins which is a prerequisite for activity. Northern-blot analysis of RNA and nuclear run-on assays demonstrated transcriptional control of the expression of Pr1 during nutrient deprivation and during the formation of infection structures. Southern-blot analysis demonstrated that genes with significant homologies to Metarhizium Pr1 were present in the entomopathogens Aspergillus flavus and Verticillium lecanii but not Zoophthora (=Erynia) radicans.

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