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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Mar;1830(3):2739-49.

Identification of the acid/base catalyst of a glycoside hydrolase family 3 (GH3) beta-glucosidase from Aspergillus niger ASKU28.

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  • 1Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Genetic Engineering, Faculty of Graduate School, Kasetsart University, Bangkok 10900, Thailand.



The commercially important glycoside hydrolase family 3 (GH3) beta-glucosidases from Aspergillus niger are anomeric-configuration-retaining enzymes that operate through the canonical double-displacement glycosidase mechanism. Whereas the catalytic nucleophile is readily identified across all GH3 members by sequence alignments, the acid/base catalyst in this family is phylogenetically variable and less readily divined.


In this report, we employed three-dimensional structure homology modeling and detailed kinetic analysis of site-directed mutants to identify the catalytic acid/base of a GH3 beta-glucosidase from A. niger ASKU28.


In comparison to the wild-type enzyme and other mutants, the E490A variant exhibited greatly reduced k(cat) and k(cat)/K(m) values toward the natural substrate cellobiose (67,000- and 61,000-fold, respectively). Correspondingly smaller kinetic effects were observed for artificial chromogenic substrates p-nitrophenyl beta-D-glucoside and 2,4-dinitrophenyl beta-D-glucoside, the aglycone leaving groups of which are less dependent on acid catalysis, although changes in the rate-determining catalytic step were revealed for both. pH-rate profile analyses also implicated E490 as the general acid/base catalyst. Addition of azide as an exogenous nucleophile partially rescued the activity of the E490A variant with the aryl beta-glucosides and yielded beta-glucosyl azide as a product.


These results strongly support the assignment of E490 as the acid/base catalyst in a beta-glucosidase from A. niger ASKU28, and provide crucial experimental support for the bioinformatic identification of the homologous residue in a range of related GH3 subfamily members.

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