AX2 is a 46-amino-acid cysteine-rich peptide isolated from sugar beet leaves infected with the fungus Cercospora beticola (Sacc). AX2 strongly inhibits the growth of C. beticola and other filamentous fungi, but has little or no effect against bacteria. AX2 is produced in very low amounts in sugar beet leaves, and to study the protein in greater detail with respect to biological function and protein structural analysis, the methylotrophic yeast Pichia pastoris was used for large-scale production. The amino acid sequence, processing of the signal peptide, disulfide bridges, and biological activity of the recombinant protein were determined and compared with that of the authentic AX2. In P. pastoris, the protein was expressed with an additional N-terminal arginine. The disulfide bonding was found to be identical to that of the authentic AX2. However, when tested in in vitro bioassay, the biological activity of the recombinant protein was slightly lower than that measured for the authentic protein. Furthermore, the recombinant protein was significantly more sensitive to Ca2+ than the authentic protein. This is most probably due to the extra arginine, since no other differences between the two proteins have been found. (C) 1999 Academic Press.