Cystine knot growth factors and their functionally versatile proregions
The cystine knot disulfide pattern has been found to be widespread in nature, since it has been detected in proteins from plants, marine snails, spiders and mammals. Cystine knot proteins are secreted proteins. Their functions range from defense mechanisms as toxins, e.g. ion channel or enzyme inhibitors, to hormones, blood factors and growth factors. Cystine knot proteins can be divided into two superordinate groups. (i) The cystine knot peptides, also referred to - with other non-cystine knot proteins - as knottins, with linear and cyclic polypeptide chains. (ii) The cystine knot growth factor family, which is in the focus of this article. The disulfide ring structure of the cystine knot peptides is made up by the half-cystines 1-4 and 2-5, and the threading disulfide bond is formed by the half-cystines, 3-6. In the growth factor group, the disulfides of half-cystines 1 and 4 pass the ring structure formed by the half-cystines 2-5 and 3-6. In this review, special emphasis will be devoted to the growth factor cystine knot proteins and their proregions. The latter have shifted into the focus of scientific interest as their important biological roles are just to be unravelled.