The effects of PPO activity on the proteome of ingested red clover and implications for improving the nutrition of grazing cattle

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Increasing the rumen-stable protein content of feed would lead to improved nitrogen utilisation in cattle, and less nitrogenous waste. Red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) is a high protein ruminant feed containing high polyphenol oxidase (PPO) activity. PPO mediated protein-quinone binding has been linked to protecting plant proteins from proteolysis. To explore the mechanism underlying the effect of PPO on protein protection in fresh forage feeds, proteomic components of feed down-boli produced from wild-type red clover and a low PPO mutant, at point of ingestion and after 4 h in vitro incubation with rumen inoculum were analysed. Significant differences in proteomic profiles between wild-type and mutant red clover were determined after 4 h incubation, with over 50% less spots in mutant than wild-type proteomes, indicating decreased proteolysis in the latter. Protein identifications revealed preferentially retained proteins localised within the chloroplast, suggesting that PPO mediated protection in the wild-type operates due to the proximity of target proteins to the enzyme and substrates, either diffusing into this compartment from the vacuole or are present in the chloroplast. This increased understanding of protein targets of PPO indicates that wider exploitation of the trait could contribute to increased protein use efficiency in grazing cattle.

Biological significance
One of the main challenges for sustainable livestock farming is improving capture of dietary nitrogen by ruminants. Typically up to 70% of ingested protein-N is excreted representing a loss of productivity potential and a serious environmental problem in terms of nitrogenous pollution of lands and water. Identification of key characteristics of rumen-protected protein will deliver target traits for selection in forage breeding programmes. The chloroplastic enzyme PPO catalyzes the oxidation of phenols to quinones, which react with protein. Little is currently known about the intracellular protein targets of the products of PPO activity or the mechanism underlying protein complexing, including whether there is any specificity to the reaction. Here we have determined significant differences in the proteomes of freshly ingested down boli corresponding to the presence or absence of active PPO. These results show that in the presence of PPO the forage protein is less amenable to proteolysis and provide the novel information that the protected proteins are putatively chloroplastically located. These data also contribute to a growing evidence base that a chloroplastic PPO substrate exists in red clover in addition to the currently known vacuolar substrates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-76
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Proteomics
Early online date16 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2016


  • Chloroplast
  • PPO
  • Polyphenol oxidase
  • Protein complexing
  • Red clover
  • Rumen


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