Identification and cloning of class II and III chitinases from alkaline floral nectar of Rhododendron irroratum, Ericaceae

Hong-guang Zha, Richard I. Milne, Hong-xia Zhou, Xiang-yang Chen, Hang Sun

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Class II and III chitinases belonging to different glycoside hydrolase families were major nectarins in Rhododendron irroratum floral nectar which showed significant chitinolytic activity. Previous studies have demonstrated antimicrobial activity in plant floral nectar, but the molecular basis for the mechanism is still poorly understood. Two chitinases, class II (Rhchi2) and III (Rhchi3), were characterized from alkaline Rhododendron irroratum nectar by both SDS-PAGE and mass spectrometry. Rhchi2 (27 kDa) and Rhchi3 (29 kDa) are glycoside hydrolases (family 19 and 18) with theoretical pI of 8.19 and 7.04. The expression patterns of Rhchi2 and Rhchi3 were analyzed by semi-quantitative RT-PCR. Rhchi2 is expressed in flowers (corolla nectar pouches) and leaves while Rhchi3 is expressed in flowers. Chitinase in concentrated protein and fresh nectar samples was visualised by SDS-PAGE and chitinolytic activity in fresh nectar was determined spectrophotometrically via chitinazure. Full length gene sequences were cloned with Tail-PCR and RACE. The amino acid sequence deduced from the coding region for these proteins showed high identity with known chitinases and predicted to be located in extracellular space. Fresh R. irroratum floral nectar showed significant chitinolytic activity. Our results demonstrate that class III chitinase (GH 18 family) also exists in floral nectar. The functional relationship between class II and III chitinases and the role of these pathogenesis-related proteins in antimicrobial activity in nectar is suggested.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Early online date17 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Alkaline nectar
  • Chitinolytic activity
  • Class II chitinase
  • Class III chitinase
  • Glycoside hydrolase
  • Pathogenesis-related proteins


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