Carrasco, Luis and Vazquez, David and Hernandez Lucas, Carlos and Carbonero Zalduegui, Pilar and García Olmedo, Francisco
Thionins: plant peptides that modify membrane permeability in cultured mammalian cells.
"European Journal of Biochemistry", v. 116
Thionins, which are high-sulphur polypeptides present in the endosperm of wheat and related species, have been found to prevent growth and to inhibit macromolecular synthesis in cultured mammalian cells. Baby hamster kidney (BHK) cells were markedly more sensitive to thionins than the other cell lines tested (monkey CV1, mouse L, human HeLa). A thionin concentration of 5 μ/ml (1 μM) completely blocked translation in BHK cells. It was later found that omission of both calcium and magnesium ions from the medium strongly enhanced the inhibitory effects of thionins (BHK cells, 80% inhibition, 0.5 μ/ml). Several lines of evidence indicate that thionins might act at the membrane level. Indeed, both the 86Rb+ content and the nucleotide pool of BHK cells were drastically decreased at thionin concentrations that inhibited translation. In addition, thionin concentrations that did not affect macromolecular synthesis in these cells, allowed inhibition of translation by antibiotics, such as hygromycin Bthat are not able to cross the cell plasma membrane by themselves. Our results suggest that the inhibition of protein, RNA and DNA synthesis in BHK cells might be a consequence of membrane leakiness induced by thionin treatment. In this respect, particularly striking was the parallelism found between 86Rb+ leakage and inhibition of protein synthesis by treatment with different genetic variants of thionins (α1 purothionin, α2 purothionin, β purothionin from wheat; hordothionin from barley), as well as with the viscotoxins, which are homologous polypeptides from the European mistletoe.