Specific pools of endogenous peptides are present in gametophore, protonema, and protoplast cells of the moss Physcomitrella patens
; licensee BioMed Central. Background: Protein degradation is a basic cell process that operates in general protein turnover or to produce bioactive peptides. However, very little is known about the qualitative and quantitative composition of a plant cell peptidome, the actual result of this degradation. In this study we comprehensively analyzed a plant cell peptidome and systematically analyzed the peptide generation process. Results: We thoroughly analyzed native peptide pools of Physcomitrella patens moss in two developmental stages as well as in protoplasts. Peptidomic analysis was supplemented by transcriptional profiling and quantitative analysis of precursor proteins. In total, over 20,000 unique endogenous peptides, ranging in size from 5 to 78 amino acid residues, were identified. We showed that in both the protonema and protoplast states, plastid proteins served as the main source of peptides and that their major fraction formed outside of chloroplasts. However, in general, the composition of peptide pools was very different between these cell types. In gametophores, stress-related proteins, e.g., late embryogenesis abundant proteins, were among the most productive precursors. The Driselase-mediated protonema conversion to protoplasts led to a peptide generation "burst", with a several-fold increase in the number of components in the latter. Degradation of plastid proteins in protoplasts was accompanied by suppression of photosynthetic activity. Conclusion: We suggest that peptide pools in plant cells are not merely a product of waste protein degradation, but may serve as important functional components for plant metabolism. We assume that the peptide "burst" is a form of biotic stress response that might produce peptides with antimicrobial activity from originally functional proteins. Potential functions of peptides in different developmental stages are discussed.
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