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Mol Microbiol. 1999 Jul;33(1):128-38.

The molecular characterization of the first autolytic lysozyme of Streptococcus pneumoniae reveals evolutionary mobile domains.

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Departamento de Microbiología Molecular, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Velázquez 144, 28006 Madrid, Spain.


A biochemical approach to identify proteins with high affinity for choline-containing pneumococcal cell walls has allowed the localization, cloning and sequencing of a gene (lytC ) coding for a protein that degrades the cell walls of Streptococcus pneumoniae. The lytC gene is 1506 bp long and encodes a protein (LytC) of 501 amino acid residues with a predicted M r of 58 682. LytC has a cleavable signal peptide, as demonstrated when the mature protein (about 55 kDa) was purified from S. pneumoniae. Biochemical analyses of the pure, mature protein proved that LytC is a lysozyme. Combined cell fractionation and Western blot analysis showed that the unprocessed, primary product of the lytC gene is located in the pneumococcal cytoplasm whereas the processed, active form of LytC is tightly bound to the cell envelope. In vivo experiments demonstrated that this lysozyme behaves as a pneumococcal autolytic enzyme at 30 degrees C. The DNA region encoding the 253 C-terminal amino acid residues of LytC has been cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli. The truncated protein exhibits a low, but significant, choline-independent lysozyme activity, which suggests that this polypeptide adopts an active conformation. Self-alignment of the N-terminal part of the deduced amino acid sequence of LytC revealed the presence of 11 repeated motifs. These results strongly suggest that the lysozyme reported here has changed the general building plan characteristic of the choline-binding proteins of S. pneumoniae and its bacteriophages, i.e. the choline-binding domain and the catalytic domain are located, respectively, at the N-terminal and the C-terminal moieties of LytC. This work illustrates the natural versatility exhibited by the pneumococcal genes coding for choline-binding proteins to fuse separated catalytic and substrate-binding domains and create new and functional mature proteins.

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