Vip3 proteins are increasingly used in insect control in transgenic crops. To shed light on the structure of these proteins, we used the approach of the trypsin fragmentation of mutants altering the conformation of the Vip3Af protein. From an alanine scanning of Vip3Af, we selected mutants with an altered proteolytic pattern. Based on protease digestion patterns, their effect on oligomer formation, and theoretical cleavage sites, we generated a map of the Vip3Af protein with five domains which match some of the domains proposed independently by two in silico models. Domain I ranges amino acids (aa) 12–198, domain II aa199–313, domain III aa314–526, domain IV aa527–668, and domain V aa669–788. The effect of some mutations on the ability to form a tetrameric molecule revealed that domains I–II are required for tetramerization, while domain V is not. The involvement of domain IV in the tetramer formation is not clear. Some mutations distributed from near the end of domain I up to the end of domain II affect the stability of the first three domains of the protein and destroy the tetrameric form upon trypsin treatment. Because of the high sequence similarity among Vip3 proteins, we propose that our domain map can be extended to the Vip3 family of proteins.
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