Cysteine protease from grapevine (Vitis vinifera) belongs to those resistant proteins, which survive the process of vinification and can therefore be detected as wine components. Its amino acid sequence shows a homology to other members of the papain family, but the enzyme has only partially been explored so far. In order to get more biochemical information with the help of mass spectrometry (MS), wine proteins were collected by ultrafiltration and separated by gel permeation chromatography. The purified enzyme surprisingly displayed a high molecular mass value of around 200 kDa, indicating a possible oligomeric status and aggregation, as it entered only negligibly the separating 10% gel during polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The isoelectric point (pI) value of 3.6 was determined by chromatofocusing. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI)-MS was employed to evaluate the cleavage specificity and usefulness of the isolated cysteine protease in protein and peptide research. A potential applicability could be anticipated from the efficient digestion performance in volatile ammonium formate buffers at pH 3. Common peptides were digested and the resulting products analyzed by MS/MS sequencing. Then, mixtures of protein standards and extracted barley nuclear proteins were processed in the same way. Grape cysteine protease is nonspecific but shows a certain preference for Arg, Lys, and also Leu residues. Compared with papain, it seems not to require fully the presence of a large hydrophobic residue adjacent to that at the cleavage site. The enzyme is suitable for protein research as it produces peptides of a reasonable length in acidic pH.
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