The ribosome-inactivating proteins (RIPs) are a family of plant enzymes for which a unique activity has been determined: rRNA N-glycosidase, which removes adenine at a specific universally conserved position (A4324 in the case of rat ribosomes). Here we report that saporin-L1, a RIP from the leaves of Saponaria officinalis, recognizes other substrates, including RNAs from different sources, DNA and poly(A). Saporin-L1 depurinated DNA extensively and released adenine from all adenine-containing polynucleotides tested. Adenine was the only base released from DNA or artificial polynucleotides. The characteristics of the reactions catalysed by saporin-L1 have been determined: optimal pH and temperature, ionic requirements, and the kinetic parameters Km and kcat. The reaction proceeded without cofactors, at low ionic strength, in the absence of Mg2+ and K+. Saporin-L1 had no activity towards various adenine-containing non-polynucleotide compounds (cytokinins, cofactors, nucleotides). This plant protein may now be classified as a polynucleotide:adenosine glycosidase.

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