Carnivorous Nutrition in Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes spp.) via an Unusual Complement of Endogenous Enzymes
Plants belonging to the genus Nepenthes are carnivorous, using specialized pitfall traps called "pitchers" that attract, capture, and digest insects as a primary source of nutrients. We have used RNA sequencing to generate a cDNA library from the Nepenthes pitchers and applied it to mass spectrometry-based identification of the enzymes secreted into the pitcher fluid using a nonspecific digestion strategy superior to trypsin in this application. This first complete catalog of the pitcher fluid subproteome includes enzymes across a variety of functional classes. The most abundant proteins present in the secreted fluid are proteases, nucleases, peroxidases, chitinases, a phosphatase, and a glucanase. Nitrogen recovery involves a particularly rich complement of proteases. In addition to the two expected aspartic proteases, we discovered three novel nepenthensins, two prolyl endopeptidases that we name neprosins, and a putative serine carboxypeptidase. Additional proteins identified are relevant to pathogen-defense and secretion mechanisms. The full complement of acid-stable enzymes discovered in this study suggests that carnivory in the genus Nepenthes can be sustained by plant-based mechanisms alone and does not absolutely require bacterial symbiosis.