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Protein Eng. 1999 Jan;12(1):47-53.

Directed evolution converts subtilisin E into a functional equivalent of thermitase.

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Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering 210-41, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125, USA.


We used directed evolution to convert Bacillus subtilis subtilisin E into an enzyme functionally equivalent to its thermophilic homolog thermitase from Thermoactinomyces vulgaris. Five generations of random mutagenesis, recombination and screening created subtilisin E 5-3H5, whose half-life at 83 degrees C (3.5 min) and temperature optimum for activity (Topt, 76 degrees C) are identical with those of thermitase. The Topt of the evolved enzyme is 17 degrees C higher and its half-life at 65 degrees C is >200 times that of wild-type subtilisin E. In addition, 5-3H5 is more active towards the hydrolysis of succinyl-Ala-Ala-Pro-Phe-p-nitroanilide than wild-type at all temperatures from 10 to 90 degrees C. Thermitase differs from subtilisin E at 157 amino acid positions. However, only eight amino acid substitutions were sufficient to convert subtilisin E into an enzyme equally thermostable. The eight substitutions, which include known stabilizing mutations (N218S, N76D) and also several not previously reported, are distributed over the surface of the enzyme. Only two (N218S, N181D) are found in thermitase. Directed evolution provides a powerful tool to unveil mechanisms of thermal adaptation and is an effective and efficient approach to increasing thermostability without compromising enzyme activity.

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