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  • Open Access

Structural and functional diversities in lepidopteran serine proteases

Cellular & Molecular Biology LettersAn International Journal200611:132

  • Received: 24 January 2006
  • Accepted: 16 February 2006
  • Published:


Primary protein-digestion in Lepidopteran larvae relies on serine proteases like trypsin and chymotrypsin. Efforts toward the classification and characterization of digestive proteases have unraveled a considerable diversity in the specificity and mechanistic classes of gut proteases. Though the evolutionary significance of mutations that lead to structural diversity in serine proteases has been well characterized, detailing the resultant functional diversity has continually posed a challenge to researchers. Functional diversity can be correlated to the adaptation of insects to various host-plants as well as to exposure of insects to naturally occurring antagonistic biomolecules such as plant-derived protease inhibitors (PIs) and lectins. Current research is focused on deciphering the changes in protease specificities and activities arising from altered amino acids at the active site, specificity-determining pockets and other regions, which influence activity. Some insight has been gained through in silico modeling and simulation experiments, aided by the limited availability of characterized proteases. We examine the structurally and functionally diverse Lepidopteran serine proteases, and assess their influence on larval digestive processes and on overall insect physiology.

Key words

  • Functional diversity
  • Lepidoptera
  • Serine protease
  • Structural diversity