The major latex proteins (MLP) are a protein family first identified in the latex of opium poppy. They are found only in plants and have 24 identified members in Arabidopsis alone as well as in other plants such as peach, strawberry, melon, cucumber, and soybean. While the function of the MLPs is unknown, they have been associated with fruit and flower development and in pathogen defense responses. Based on modest sequence similarity, they have been characterized as members of the Bet v 1 protein superfamily; however, no structures have yet been reported. As part of an ongoing structural genomics effort, we determined the structures of two Arabidopsis thaliana MLPs: the solution structure of MLP28 (gene product of At1g70830.1) and the crystal structure of At1g24000.1. The structures revealed distinct differences when compared to one another and to the typical Bet v 1 fold. Nevertheless, NMR titration experiments demonstrated that the characteristic Bet v 1 hydrophobic binding pocket of At1g24000.1 is able to bind a ligand, suggesting that it plays a role in the function of the MLPs. A structure-based sequence analysis identified conserved hydrophobic residues in the long alpha helix that contribute to the binding cavity and may specify preferred ligands for the MLP family.
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