Most herbs of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are used as air-dried decoction pieces that are manufactured and kept at ambient temperature for long periods. Given the ability of some desiccation-tolerant plants to conserve RNA, it could be worthwhile to isolate mRNA from TCM decoction pieces as part of a transcriptomic strategy to identify new substances with potential pharmaceutical application. Here, we report the molecular cloning of a novel trypsin inhibitor (as the probable allelic variants TKTI-2 and TKTI-3) from the decoction piece of Radix Trichosanthis, representing the dried root of Trichosanthes kirilowii. From this material, the total RNA was extracted and a cDNA library was constructed from the isolated mRNA from which the cDNAs of two precursors were successfully cloned and sequenced. TKTI-3 showed an amino-acid substitution in the otherwise highly-conserved P1-P1' reaction site of the mature peptide, which we confirmed to not be an artefact. Subsequent analysis using LC-MS/MS detected the presence of specific tryptic peptides expected from TKTI-3, confirming the presence and expression of this locus in Radix Trichosanthis. More generally, this study indicates that mRNA can persist in decoction pieces and so could present a viable option for the molecular cloning from other TCMs.
- Chinese medicine; Trichosanthes kirilowii; trypsin inhibitor peptide; molecular cloning; MS/MS sequencing