AtCYS1, a cystatin from Arabidopsis thaliana, suppresses hypersensitive cell death

Beatrice Belenghi, Filippo Acconcia, Maurizio Trovato, Michele Perazzolli, Alessio Bocedi, Fabio Polticelli, Paolo Ascenzi, Massimo Delledonne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In plants, cysteine protease inhibitors are involved in the regulation of protein turnover and play an important role in resistance against insects and pathogens. AtCYS1 from Arabidopsis thaliana encodes a protein of 102 amino acids that contains the conserved motif of cysteine protease inhibitors belonging to the cystatin superfamily (Gln-Val-Val-Ala-Gly). Recombinant A. thaliana cystatin-1 (AtCYS1) was expressed in Escherichia coli and purified. AtCYS1 inhibits the catalytic activity of papain (Kd = 4.0 × 10-2 μM, at pH 7.0 and 25°C), generally taken as a molecular model of cysteine proteases. The molecular bases for papain inhibition by AtCYS1 have been analysed taking into account the three-dimensional structure of the papain-stefin B complex. AtCYS1 is constitutively expressed in roots and in developing siliques of A. thaliana. In leaves, AtCYS1 is strongly induced by wounding, by challenge with avirulent pathogens and by nitric oxide (NO). The overexpression of AtCYS1 blocks cell death activated by either avirulent pathogens or by oxidative and nitrosative stress in both A. thaliana suspension cultured cells and in transgenic tobacco plants. The suppression of the NO-mediated cell death in plants overexpressing AtCYS1 provides the evidence that NO is not cytotoxic for the plant, indicating that NO functions as cell death trigger through the stimulation of an active process, in which cysteine proteases and theirs proteinaceous inhibitors appear to play a crucial role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2593-2604
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Biochemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Cystatin
  • Cysteine protease
  • Hypersensitive response
  • Programmed cell death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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