* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received April 11, 2014; Revision received May 14, 2014
Limited proteolysis of the α- and β-chains and deep cleavage of the αβ-subunits by the cooperative (one-by-one) mechanism was observed in the course of papain hydrolysis of cucurbitin, an 11S storage globulin from seeds of the pumpkin Cucurbita maxima. An independent analysis of the kinetics of the limited and cooperative proteolyses revealed that the reaction occurs in two successive steps. In the first step, limited proteolysis consisting of detachments of short terminal peptides from the α- and β-chains was observed. The cooperative proteolysis, which occurs as a pseudo-first order reaction, started at the second step. Therefore, the limited proteolysis at the first step plays a regulatory role, impacting the rate of deep degradation of cucurbitin molecules by the cooperative mechanism. Structural alterations of cucurbitin induced by limited proteolysis are suggested to generate its susceptibility to cooperative proteolysis. These alterations are tentatively discussed on the basis of the tertiary structure of the cucurbitin subunit pdb|2EVX in comparison with previously obtained data on features of degradation of soybean 11S globulin hydrolyzed by papain.
KEY WORDS: Cucurbita maxima, seed storage globulin, limited proteolysis, papain, kinetics