Background: Ovalbumin-related protein X (OVAX) is an uncharacterized ovalbumin-serpin.
Results: This egg white-specific serpin lacks protease inhibitory activity, but unlike its ovalbumin homolog, OVAX exhibits antibacterial properties, partly through its heparin-binding site(s).
Conclusion: OVAX, a non-inhibitory serpin is a heparin-binding molecule with antibacterial activity.
Significance: OVAX participates in egg defense and constitutes a natural agent against Listeria and Salmonella.
Ovalbumin family contains three proteins with high sequence similarity: ovalbumin, ovalbumin-related protein Y (OVAY), and ovalbumin-related protein X (OVAX). Ovalbumin is the major egg white protein with still undefined function, whereas the biological activity of OVAX and OVAY has not yet been explored. Similar to ovalbumin and OVAY, OVAX belongs to the ovalbumin serine protease inhibitor family (ov-serpin). We show that OVAX is specifically expressed by the magnum tissue, which is responsible for egg white formation. OVAX is also the main heparin-binding protein of egg white. This glycoprotein with a predicted reactive site at Lys367-His368 is not able to inhibit trypsin, plasmin, or cathepsin G with or without heparin as a cofactor. Secondary structure of OVAX is similar to that of ovalbumin, but the three-dimensional model of OVAX reveals the presence of a cluster of exposed positive charges, which potentially explains the affinity of this ov-serpin for heparin, as opposed to ovalbumin. Interestingly, OVAX, unlike ovalbumin, displays antibacterial activities against both Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella enterica sv. Enteritidis. These properties partly involve heparin-binding site(s) of the molecule as the presence of heparin reverses its anti-Salmonella but not its anti-Listeria potential. Altogether, these results suggest that OVAX and ovalbumin, although highly similar in sequence, have peculiar sequential and/or structural features that are likely to impact their respective biological functions.