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Received December 11, 2011; Revision received January 26, 2012
Until recently food proteins were considered to be an energy source and a source of essential and nonessential amino acids required for protein synthesis and precursors of many vital biomolecules. However, we assumed earlier that food protein fragments might perform some regulatory functions. The theoretical justification for this assumption is advanced in this work. In the present work, the primary structures of protein fragments were compared with amino acid sequences of known natural regulatory oligopeptides in silico. It is shown that fragments formed as a result of animal food protein cleavage by proteolytic enzymes can exist in the gastrointestinal tract for a long time. Many of them are enzyme inhibitors, regulators of nervous, endocrine, and immune system, and possess antimicrobial and other activities. It has also been shown that the lifetime of fragments before their cleavage in the gastrointestinal tract could be enough for performing corrective functions. Thus, as a result of food protein fragmentation a dynamic pool of exogenous regulatory oligopeptides with functions changing as shorter fragments are generated may form. The detection of an endogenous–exogenous pool of regulatory molecules expands the significance and content of the Ashmarin–Obukhova hypothesis on a functional continuum of natural oligopeptides. The possible practical importance of these results is noted.
KEY WORDS: fragment, oligopeptide, food protein, regulation, EROP-Moscow database, computer analysis, continuum