Journal Article

Transglutaminases: Widespread Cross-linking Enzymes in Plants

Donatella Serafini-Fracassini and Stefano Del Duca

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 102, issue 2, pages 145-152
Published in print August 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online May 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Transglutaminases: Widespread Cross-linking Enzymes in Plants

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Transglutaminases have been studied in plants since 1987 in investigations aimed at interpreting some of the molecular mechanisms by which polyamines affect growth and differentiation. Transglutaminases are a widely distributed enzyme family catalysing a myriad of biological reactions in animals. In plants, the post-translational modification of proteins by polyamines forming inter- or intra-molecular cross-links has been the main transglutaminase reaction studied.

Characteristics of Plant Transglutaminases

The few plant transglutaminases sequenced so far have little sequence homology with the best-known animal enzymes, except for the catalytic triad; however, they share a possible structural homology. Proofs of their catalytic activity are: (a) their ability to produce glutamyl-polyamine derivatives; (b) their recognition by animal transglutaminase antibodies; and (c) biochemical features such as calcium-dependency, etc. However, many of their fundamental biochemical and physiological properties still remain elusive.

Transglutaminase Activity is Ubiquitous

It has been detected in algae and in angiosperms in different organs and sub-cellular compartments, chloroplasts being the best-studied organelles.

Possible Roles

Possible roles concern the structural modification of specific protein substrates. In chloroplasts, transglutaminases appear to stabilize the photosynthetic complexes and Rubisco, being regulated by light and other factors, and possibly exerting a positive effect on photosynthesis and photo-protection. In the cytosol, they modify cytoskeletal proteins. Preliminary reports suggest an involvement in the cell wall construction/organization. Other roles appear to be related to fertilization, abiotic and biotic stresses, senescence and programmed cell death, including the hypersensitive reaction.


The widespread occurrence of transglutaminases activity in all organs and cell compartments studied suggests a relevance for their still incompletely defined physiological roles. At present, it is not possible to classify this enzyme family in plants owing to the scarcity of information on genes encoding them.

Keywords: Transglutaminases; polyamines; cross-links; chloroplast; light-dependence; cell wall; stress; programmed cell death; monocotyledons; dicotyledons; algae

Journal Article.  5240 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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