Key message: Extracts from hairy root cultures of Cynara cardunculus L. contain proteases and show milk-clotting activity. Abstract: Cynara cardunculus L. or cardoon is often used as rennet in traditional cheese manufacturing, due to the presence of specific proteases in the flower. However, the flower extracts are variable depending on the provenance and quality of the flowers as well as high genetic variability among cardoon populations, and this affects the quality of the final product. In search for alternative sources of milk-clotting enzymes, hairy root cultures from cardoon were obtained and characterized regarding their protease content and proteolytic activity toward milk proteins. Aspartic, serine and cysteine proteases were identified in hairy roots by mass spectrometry analysis and an azocasein assay combined with specific inhibitors. RT-PCR analysis revealed the expression of cardosin A and D, and immunoblotting analysis suggested the presence of cardosin A or cardosin A-like enzyme in its mature form, supporting this system as an alternative source of cardosins. Hairy root protein extracts showed activity over caseins, supporting its use as milk coagulant, which was further tested by milk-clotting assays. This is also the first report on the establishment of hairy root cultures from cardoon, which paves the way for future work on controlled platforms for production of valuable metabolites which are known to be present in this species.
- Hairy roots
- Proteolytic activity