Alanine-scanning mutagenesis of plasmatocyte spreading peptide identifies critical residues for biological activity
Clark, K.D.; Volkman, B.F.; Thoetkiattikul, H.; King, D.; Hayakawa, Y.; Strand, M.R.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 276(21): 18491-18496
Plasmatocyte spreading peptide (PSP) is a 23-amino acid cytokine that induces a class of insect immune cells called plasmatocytes to spread on foreign surfaces. The structure of PSP consists of a disordered N terminus (residues 1-6) and a well-defined core (residues 7-23) stabilized by a disulfide bridge between Cys(7) and Cys(19), hydrophobic interactions, and a short beta-hairpin. Structural comparisons also indicate that the core region of PSP adopts an epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like fold very similar to the C-terminal subdomain of EGF-like module 5 of thrombomodulin. To identify residues important for plasmatocyte spreading activity, we bioassayed PSP mutants in which amino acids were either replaced with alanine or deleted. Within the well-defined core of PSP, alanine replacement of Cys(7) and Cys(19) (C7.19A) eliminated all activity. Alanine replacement of Arg(13) reduced activity approximately 1000-fold in comparison to wild-type PSP, whereas replacement of the other charged residues (Asp(16), Arg(18), Lys(20)) surrounding Cys(19) diminished activity to a lesser degree. The point mutants Y11A, T14A, T22A, and F23A had activity identical or only slightly reduced to that of wild-type PSP. The mutant PSP-(7-23) lacked the entire unstructured domain of PSP and was found to have no plasmatocyte spreading activity. Surprisingly, E1A and N2A had higher activity than wild-type PSP, but F3A had almost no activity. We thus concluded that the lack of activity for PSP-(7-23) was largely due to the critical importance of Phe(3). To determine whether reductions in activity correlated with alterations in tertiary structure, we compared the C7.19A, R13A, R18A, and F3A mutants to wild-type PSP by NMR spectroscopy. As expected, the simultaneous replacement of Cys(7) and Cys(19) profoundly affected tertiary structure, but the R13A, R18A, and F3A mutants did not differ from wild-type PSP. Collectively, these results indicate that residues in both the unstructured and structured domains of PSP are required for plasmatocyte-spreading activity.