The feeding tube of cyst nematodes: characterisation of protein exclusion

Sebastian Eves-van den Akker, Catherine J. Lilley, James R. Ault, Alison E. Ashcroft, John T. Jones, Peter E. Urwin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Plant parasitic nematodes comprise several groups; the most economically damaging of these are the sedentary endoparasites. Sedentary endoparasitic nematodes are obligate biotrophs and modify host root tissue, using a suite of effector proteins, to create a feeding site that is their sole source of nutrition. They feed by withdrawing host cell assimilate from the feeding site though a structure known as the feeding tube. The function, composition and molecular characteristics of feeding tubes are poorly characterised. It is hypothesised that the feeding tube facilitates uptake of host cell assimilate by acting as a molecular sieve. Several studies, using molecular mass as the sole indicator of protein size, have given contradictory results about the exclusion limits of the cyst nematode feeding tube. In this study we propose a method to predict protein size, based on protein database coordinates in silico. We tested the validity of these predictions using travelling wave ion mobility spectrometry - mass spectrometry, where predictions and measured values were within approximately 6%. We used the predictions, coupled with mass spectrometry, analytical ultracentrifugation and protein electrophoresis, to resolve previous conflicts and define the exclusion characteristics of the cyst nematode feeding tube. Heterogeneity was tested in the liquid, solid and gas phase to provide a comprehensive evaluation of three proteins of particular interest to feeding tube size exclusion, GFP, mRFP and Dual PI. The data and procedures described here could be applied to the design of plant expressed defence compounds intended for uptake into cyst nematodes. We also highlight the need to assess protein heterogeneity when creating novel fusion proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere87289
Number of pages9
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2014


  • Plant-parasitic nematodes
  • Green-fluorescent protein
  • Ion mobility measurements
  • Mass-spectrometry
  • Glomerular-filtration
  • Heterodera-schachtii
  • Arabidopsis-thaliana
  • Size-selectivity
  • Aggregation
  • Cells


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