Processing of Cry1Ab delta-endotoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis by Manduca sexta and Spodoptera frugiperda midgut proteases: role in protoxin activation and toxin inactivation.Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2001 Nov 01; 31(12):1155-63.IB
Activation of Cry protoxins is carried out by midgut proteases. This process is important for toxicity and in some cases for specificity. Commercial proteases have been used for in vitro protoxin activation. In the case of Cry1A protoxins, trypsin digestion generates a toxic fragment of 60-65 kDa. Here, we have analyzed the in vitro and in vivo activation of Cry1Ab. We found differences in the processing of Cry1Ab protoxin by Manduca sexta and Spodoptera frugiperda midgut proteases as compared to trypsin. Midgut juice proteases produced two additional nicks at the N-terminal end removing helices alpha1 and alpha2a to produce a 58 kDa protein. A further cleavage within domain II splits the toxin into two fragments of 30 kDa. The resulting fragments were not separated, but instead coeluted with the 58 kDa monomer, in size-exclusion chromatography. To examine if this processing was involved in the activation or degradation of Cry1Ab toxin, binding, pore formation, and toxicity assays were performed. Pore formation assays showed that midgut juice treatment produced a more active toxin than trypsin treatment. In addition, it was determined that the alpha1 helix is dispensable for Cry1Ab activity. In contrast, the appearance of the 30 kDa fragments correlates with a decrease in pore formation and insecticidal activities. Our results suggest that the cleavage in domain II may be involved in toxin inactivation, and that the 30 kDa fragments are stable intermediates in the degradation pathway.