Efficient backbone cyclization of linear peptides by a recombinant asparaginyl endopeptidase

Nat Commun. 2015 Dec 18;6:10199. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10199.


Cyclotides are diverse plant backbone cyclized peptides that have attracted interest as pharmaceutical scaffolds, but fundamentals of their biosynthetic origin remain elusive. Backbone cyclization is a key enzyme-mediated step of cyclotide biosynthesis and confers a measure of stability on the resultant cyclotide. Furthermore, cyclization would be desirable for engineered peptides. Here we report the identification of four asparaginyl endopeptidases (AEPs), proteases implicated in cyclization, from the cyclotide-producing plant Oldenlandia affinis. We recombinantly express OaAEP1b and find it functions preferably as a cyclase by coupling C-terminal cleavage of propeptide substrates with backbone cyclization. Interestingly, OaAEP1b cannot cleave at the N-terminal site of O. affinis cyclotide precursors, implicating additional proteases in cyclotide biosynthesis. Finally, we demonstrate the broad utility of this enzyme by cyclization of peptides unrelated to cyclotides. We propose that recombinant OaAEP1b is a powerful tool for use in peptide engineering applications where increased stability of peptide products is desired.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cyclization
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Oldenlandia
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins


  • Peptides
  • Plant Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • asparaginylendopeptidase