Chlorophyte aspartyl aminopeptidases: Ancient origins, expanded families, new locations, and secondary functions

PLoS One. 2017 Oct 12;12(10):e0185492. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185492. eCollection 2017.


M18 aspartyl aminopeptidases (DAPs) are well characterized in microbes and animals with likely functions in peptide processing and vesicle trafficking. In contrast, there is a dearth of knowledge on plant aminopeptidases with a preference for proteins and peptides with N-terminal acidic residues. During evolution of the Plantae, there was an expansion and diversification of the M18 DAPs. After divergence of the ancestral green algae from red and glaucophyte algae, a duplication yielded the DAP1 and DAP2 lineages. Subsequently DAP1 genes were lost in chlorophyte algae. A duplication of DAP2-related genes occurred early in green plant evolution. DAP2 genes were retained in land plants and picoeukaryotic algae and lost in green algae. In contrast, DAP2-like genes persisted in picoeukaryotic and green algae, while this lineage was lost in land plants. Consistent with this evolutionary path, Arabidopsis thaliana has two DAP gene lineages (AtDAP1 and AtDAP2). Similar to animal and yeast DAPs, AtDAP1 is localized to the cytosol or vacuole; while AtDAP2 harbors an N-terminal transit peptide and is chloroplast localized. His6-DAP1 and His6-DAP2 expressed in Escherichia coli were enzymatically active and dodecameric with masses exceeding 600 kDa. His6-DAP1 and His6-DAP2 preferentially hydrolyzed Asp-p-nitroanilide and Glu-p-nitroanilide. AtDAPs are highly conserved metallopeptidases activated by MnCl2 and inhibited by ZnCl2 and divalent ion chelators. The protease inhibitor PMSF inhibited and DTT stimulated both His6-DAP1 and His6-DAP2 activities suggesting a role for thiols in the AtDAP catalytic mechanism. The enzymes had distinct pH and temperature optima, as well as distinct kinetic parameters. Both enzymes had high catalytic efficiencies (kcat/Km) exceeding 1.0 x 107 M-1 sec-1. Using established molecular chaperone assays, AtDAP1 and AtDAP2 prevented thermal denaturation. AtDAP1 also prevented protein aggregation and promoted protein refolding. Collectively, these data indicate that plant DAPs have a complex evolutionary history and have evolved new biochemical features that may enable their role in vivo.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Arabidopsis / enzymology*
  • Chlorophyta / enzymology*
  • Chloroplasts / enzymology*
  • Databases, Protein
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Glutamyl Aminopeptidase / metabolism*
  • Molecular Chaperones*
  • Multigene Family*
  • Phylogeny
  • Plastids / enzymology
  • Selaginellaceae / enzymology
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Substrate Specificity


  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Glutamyl Aminopeptidase