Background and Aims
Nectar is a very complex mixture of substances. Some components (sugars and amino acids) are considered primary alimentary rewards for animals and have been investigated and characterized in numerous species for many years. In contrast, nectar proteins have been the subject of few studies and little is known of their function. Only very recently have detailed studies and characterization of nectar proteins been undertaken, and then for only a very few species. This current work represents a first step in the identification of a protein profile for the floral nectar of Cucurbita pepo. In this regard, the species studied is of particular interest in that it is monoecious with unisexual flowers and, consequently, it is possible that nectar proteins derived from male and female flowers may differ.
Manually excised spots from two-dimensional (2-D) electrophoresis were subjected to in-gel protein digestion. The resulting peptides were sequenced using nanoscale LC–ESI/MS-MS (liquid chromatography–electrospray ionization/tandem mass spectrometry). An MS/MS ions search was carried out in Swiss-Prot and NCBInr databases using MASCOT software.
Two-dimensional electrophoresis revealed a total of 24 spots and a different protein profile for male and female flower nectar. Four main proteins recognized by 2-D electrophoresis most closely resemble β-d-xylosidases from Arabidopsis thaliana and have some homology to a β-d-xylosidase from Medicago varia. They were present in similar quantities in male and female flowers and had the same molecular weight, but with slightly different isoelectric points.
A putative function for xylosidases in floral nectar of C. pepo is proposed, namely that they may be involved in degrading the oligosaccharides released by the nectary cell walls in response to hydrolytic enzymes produced by invading micro-organisms. Several types of oligosaccharides have been reported to increase the pathogenic potential of micro-organisms. Thus, it is possible that such a mechanism may reduce the virulence of pathogens present in nectar.