Legumin from pea (Pisum sativum) is a molecule made up of six pairs of subunits, each pair consisting of an ‘acidic’ subunit (mol.wt. about 40000) and a ‘basic’ subunit (mol.wt. about 20000) linked by one or more disulphide bonds. The heterogeneity of legumin has been investigated by isoelectric focusing; undissociated legumin could not be focused satisfactorily, but legumin subunits could be analysed under dissociating conditions. 8m-Urea was not found to be a satisfactory medium for isoelectric focusing of legumin, as the ‘basic’ subunits showed a shift in pI with time of incubation in urea. A new dissociating medium for isoelectric focusing, namely 50% (v/v) formamide, was used for analysis of legumin, which gave pI values of 5.0–5.3 for the ‘acidic’ subunits, and 8.3–8.7 for the ‘basic’ subunits. Both types of subunits were shown to be heterogeneous in charge and molecular weight by two-dimensional analysis employing isoelectric focusing in the first dimension and sodium dodecyl sulphate/polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis in the second. The ‘basic’ and ‘acidic’ subunits of legumin were separated on the preparative scale by ion-exchange chromatography in 50% formamide. Carbohydrate attached to the protein was investigated as a possible cause of the heterogeneity of legumin subunits. However, both a fluorescent-labelling technique and a sensitive radioactive-labelling technique failed to show any carbohydrate bound to legumin subunits, and it was concluded that legumin is not a glycoprotein.

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