A Kunitz trypsin inhibitor from chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) that exerts anti-metabolic effect on podborer (Helicoverpa armigera) larvae

Plant Mol Biol. 2005 Feb;57(3):359-74. doi: 10.1007/s11103-004-7925-2.


Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) seeds contain Bowman-Birk proteinase inhibitors, which are ineffective against the digestive proteinases of larvae of the insect pest Helicoverpa armigera. We have identified and purified a low expressing proteinase inhibitor (PI), distinct from the Bowman-Birk Inhibitors and active against H. armigera gut proteinases (HGP), from chickpea seeds. N-terminal sequencing of this HGP inhibitor revealed a sequence similar to reported pea (Pisum sativum) and chickpea alpha-l-fucosidases and also homologous to legume Kunitz inhibitors. The identity was confirmed by matrix assisted laser desorption ionization - time of flight analysis of tryptic peptides and isolation of DNA sequence coding for the mature protein. Available sequence data showed that this protein forms a distinct phylogenetic cluster with Kunitz inhibitors from Glycine max, Medicago truncatula, P. sativum and Canavalia lineata. The isolated coding sequence was cloned into a yeast expression vector and produced as a recombinant protein in Pichia pastoris. alpha-l-fucosidase activity was not detectable in purified or recombinant protein, by solution assays. The recombinant protein did not inhibit chymotrypsin or subtilisin activity but did exhibit stoichiometric inhibition of trypsin, comparable to soybean Kunitz trypsin inhibitor. The recombinant protein exhibited higher inhibition of total HGP activity as compared to soybean kunitz inhibitor, even though it preferentially inhibited HGP-trypsins. H. armigera larvae fed on inhibitor-incorporated artificial diet showed significant reduction in average larval weight after 18 days of feeding demonstrating potent antimetabolic activity. The over-expression of this gene in chickpea could act as an endogenous source of resistance to H. armigera.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Chymotrypsin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Chymotrypsin / metabolism
  • Cicer / genetics
  • Cicer / metabolism*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Weight
  • Moths / drug effects
  • Moths / metabolism
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Subtilisin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Subtilisin / metabolism
  • Trypsin / metabolism


  • Kunitz-type protease inhibitor, plant
  • Peptides
  • Plant Proteins
  • Chymotrypsin
  • Trypsin
  • Subtilisin