Cystatins are proteins, which inhibit cysteine proteases, such as papain. In this study, the 336-bp cystatin C gene (family II, HmCysC) of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3). HmCysC encodes the mature peptide of cystatin C (HmCystatin C), with 111 amino acids. A typical QXXXG motif was found in HmCystatin C and it formed a cluster with Cyprinus carpio and Danio rerio cystatin C in the phylogenetic tree. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis indicated that HmCysC was transcribed at different levels in five tested tissues of silver carp. Following purification with Ni2+– nitrilotriacetic acid agarose affinity chromatography, HmCystatin C displayed a molecular weight of 20 kDa in sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Purified HmCystatin C had strong inhibitory effects toward the proteolytic activity of papain. Immunochemical staining with anti-HmCystatin C antibody showed that HmCystatin C was widely distributed in silver carp tissues. These results collectively demonstrated the properties of HmCystatin C, providing information for further studies of cystatins from fish organisms.
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