A rice class I low-molecular-mass heat shock protein (LMM HSP) Oshsp 16.9 was overexpressed in Escherichia coli. Oligomerized complexes of Oshsp16.9 were harvested and electron microscopic observations of purified complexes revealed globular structures of 10-20 nm in diameter (with majority of 15-18 nm) and calculated to comprise approx. 12 monomers per complex. In comparison, complexes from native rice class I LMM HSPs were observed as larger ellipsoid- or globular-like random aggregated hetero-oligomers. To characterize the biochemical functions of the hydrophobic N-terminal region of Oshsp16.9, a truncation in the N-terminal region was constructed and introduced into E. coli. Results showed that the N-terminal truncated Oshsp16.9 mutant was capable of forming complexes similar to the full-length Oshsp16.9; however, the deletion protein failed to confer in vitro protein thermostability under elevated temperatures. Protein assays from in vivo treatments at higher temperatures exhibited that non-specific interactions of E. coli cellular proteins only occurred with full-length Oshsp16.9 complexes but not with the mutant complex. In vitro immunoprecipitation of cellular proteins from E. coli overexpressing full-length Oshsp16.9 showed that interactions between plant LMM HSP and E. coli cellular proteins are temperature-dependent. Taken together, the hydrophobic N-terminal region of rice class I LMM HSP is critical in the ability of the protein to interact/bind with its potential substrates.

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