Submit Manuscript  

Article Details

Cysteine-Rich Mini-Proteins in Human Biology

[ Vol. 12 , Issue. 14 ]


Vincent Lavergne, Ryan J. Taft and Paul F. Alewood   Pages 1514 - 1533 ( 20 )


Understanding the relationship between structure and function underpins both biochemistry and chemical biology, and has enabled the discovery of numerous agricultural and therapeutic agents. Small cysteine-rich proteins, which form a unique set of protein frameworks and folds, are found in all living organisms and often play crucial roles as hormones, growth factors, ion channel modulators and enzyme inhibitors in various biological pathways. Here we review secreted human cysteine-rich mini-proteins, classify them into broad families and briefly describe their structure and function. To systematically investigate this protein sub-class we designed a step-wise high throughput algorithm that is able to isolate the mature and active forms of human secreted cysteine-rich proteins (up to 200 amino acids in length) and extract their cysteine scaffolds. We limited our search to frameworks that contain an even number of cysteine residues (< 20), all of which are engaged in intra-molecular disulfide bonds. We found 53 different cysteine-rich frameworks spread over 378 secreted cysteine-rich mini-proteins. Restricting our search to those that contain >5% cysteine residues led to the identification of 22 cysteine-rich frameworks representing 21 protein families. Analysis of their molecular targets showed that these mini-proteins are frequently ligands for G protein- and enzyme-coupled receptors, transporters, extracellular enzyme inhibitors, and antimicrobial peptides. It is clear that these human secreted mini-proteins possess a wide diversity of frameworks and folds, some of which are conserved across the phylogenetic spectrum. Further study of these proteins will undoubtedly lead to insights into unresolved questions of basic biology, and the development of system-specific human therapeutics.


Cysteine framework, cysteine scaffold, cysteine-rich peptides, cysteine-rich proteins, secreted human miniproteins, structure-function relationship, numerous agricultural and therapeutic agents, Small cysteine-rich proteins, protein frameworks, living organisms, growth factors, enzyme inhibitors, various biological pathways, antimicrobial peptides


Institute for Molecular, Bioscience, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

Read Full-Text article