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Published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry 284:27 (July 3, 2009), pp. 18070–18077; doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.006460 PMCID: PMC2709354 Copyright © 2009 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc. Used by permission.


The peptide toxins of poisonous Amanita mushrooms are bicyclic octapeptides (amatoxins) or heptapeptides (phallotoxins). In Amanita bisporigera, α-amanitin and phallacidin are synthesized as 35- and 34-amino acid proproteins, respectively, in which the amino acid sequences found in the mature toxins are flanked by conserved amino acid sequences. The presence of invariant Pro residues immediately upstream of the toxin regions and as the last predicted amino acid in the toxin regions themselves suggests that a Pro-specific peptidase is responsible for the initial post-translational processing of the Amanita toxin proproteins. We purified an enzyme from the phalloidin-producing mushroom Conocybe albipes that cleaves a synthetic 22-mer phalloidin peptide to release the mature toxin peptide (AWLATCP). Mass spectrometric analysis of the purified protein combined with isolation and sequencing of the encoding gene indicates that the responsible processing enzyme is a member of the prolyl oligopeptidase (POP) subfamily of proteases (EC The processing enzyme was able to use the chromogenic POP substrate benzyloxycarbonyl-Gly-Pro-p-nitroanilide and was inhibited by the specific POP inhibitor benzyloxycarbonyl-Pro-prolinal. Both Pro bonds in the proprotein are cleaved by the same enzyme, with the C-terminal Pro bond cleaved first or much faster than the N-terminal Pro bond. Transient accumulation of the N-terminal intermediate indicates that cleavage is not strongly processive. A synthetic peptide representing the phallacidin proprotein was also cleaved by the POP of C. albipes, but a precursor of amanitin (which is not made by C. albipes) was cleaved inefficiently.

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