The object of this study was to define minimized biotin-binding fragments, or ‘prorecognition sites’, of either the egg-white glycoprotein avidin or its bacterial analogue streptavidin. Because of the extreme stability to enzymic hydrolysis, fragments of avidin were prepared by chemical means and examined for their individual biotin-binding capacity. Treatment of avidin with hydroxylamine was shown to result in new cleavage sites in addition to the known Asn-Gly cleavage site (position 88-89 in avidin). Notably, the Asn-Glu and Asp-Lys peptide bonds (positions 42-43 and 57-58 respectively) were readily cleaved; in addition, lesser levels of hydrolysis of the Gln-Pro (61-62) and Asn-Asp (12-13 and 104-105) bonds could be detected. The smallest biotin-binding peptide fragment, derived from hydroxylamine cleavage of either native or non-glycosylated avidin, was identified to comprise residues 1-42. CNBr cleavage resulted in a 78-amino acid-residue fragment (residues 19-96) that still retained activity. The data ascribe an important biotin-binding function to the overlapping region (residues 19-42) of avidin, which bears the single tyrosine moiety. This contention was corroborated by synthesizing a tridecapeptide corresponding to residues 26-38 of avidin; this peptide was shown to recognize biotin. Streptavidin was not susceptible to either enzymic or chemical cleavage methods used in this work. The approach taken in this study enabled the experimental distinction between the chemical and structural elements of the binding site. The capacity to assign biotin-binding activity to the tyrosine-containing domain of avidin underscores its primary chemical contribution to the binding of biotin by avidin.

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