Ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs) are a group of proteins with rRNA N-glycosylase activity that catalyze the removal of a specific adenine located in the sarcin-ricin loop of the large ribosomal RNA, which leads to the irreversible inhibition of protein synthesis and, consequently, cell death. The case of elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) is unique, since more than 20 RIPs and related lectins have been isolated and characterized from the flowers, seeds, fruits, and bark of this plant. However, these kinds of proteins have never been isolated from elderberry leaves. In this work, we have purified RIPs and lectins from the leaves of this shrub, studying their main physicochemical characteristics, sequences, and biological properties. In elderberry leaves, we found one type 2 RIP and two related lectins that are specific for galactose, four type 2 RIPs that fail to agglutinate erythrocytes, and one type 1 RIP. Several of these proteins are homologous to others found elsewhere in the plant. The diversity of RIPs and lectins in the different elderberry tissues, and the different biological activities of these proteins, which have a high degree of homology with each other, constitute an excellent source of proteins that are of great interest in diagnostics, experimental therapy, and agriculture.
Keywords: anticancer agents; galactose; lectin; nanoLC–tandem mass spectrometry (nLC-MS/MS); protein synthesis (inhibition); ribosome-inactivating protein (RIP); ricin; sugar binding.