Cowpea bruchid Callosobruchus maculatus counteracts dietary protease inhibitors by modulating propeptides of major digestive enzymes. Academic Article uri icon


  • Cowpea bruchids, when challenged by consumption of the soybean cysteine protease inhibitor scN, reconfigure expression of their major CmCP digestive proteases and resume normal feeding and development. Previous evidence indicated that insects selectively induced CmCPs from subfamily B, that were more efficient in autoprocessing and possessed not only higher proteolytic, but also scN-degrading activities. In contrast, dietary scN only marginally up-regulated genes from the more predominant CmCP subfamily A that were inferior to subfamily B. To gain further molecular insight into this adaptive adjustment, we performed domain swapping between the two respective subfamily members B1 and A16, the latter unable to autoprocess or degrade scN even after intermolecular processing. Swapping the propeptides did not qualitatively alter autoprocessing in either protease isoform. Incorporation of either the N- (pAmBA) or C-terminal (pAmAB) mature B1 segment into A16, however, was sufficient to prime autoprocessing of A16 to its mature form. Further, the swap at the N-terminal mature A16 protein region (pAmBA) resulted in four amino acid changes. Replacement of these amino acid residues by the corresponding B1 residues, singly and pair-wise, revealed that autoprocessing activation in pAmBA resulted from cumulative and/or coordinated individual effects. Bacterially expressed isolated propeptides (pA16 and pB1) differed in their ability to inhibit mature B1 enzyme. Lower inhibitory activity in pB1 is likely attributable to its lack of protein stability. This instability in the cleaved propeptide is necessary, although insufficient by itself, for scN-degradation by the mature B1 enzyme. Taken together, cowpea bruchids modulate proteolysis of their digestive enzymes by controlling proCmCP cleavage and propeptide stability, which explains at least in part the plasticity cowpea bruchids demonstrate in response to protease inhibitors.

published proceedings

  • Insect Mol Biol

author list (cited authors)

  • Ahn, J., Lovingshimer, M. R., Salzman, R. A., Presnail, J. K., Lu, A. L., Koiwa, H., & Zhu-Salzman, K.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Ahn, J-E||Lovingshimer, MR||Salzman, RA||Presnail, JK||Lu, AL||Koiwa, H||Zhu-Salzman, K

publication date

  • June 2007