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J Biol Chem. 2001 Aug 24;276(34):31542-50. Epub 2001 Jun 4.

The catalytic activities of the bifunctional Azotobacter vinelandii mannuronan C-5-epimerase and alginate lyase AlgE7 probably originate from the same active site in the enzyme.

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Department of Biotechnology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway.


The Azotobacter vinelandii genome encodes a family of seven secreted Ca(2+)-dependent epimerases (AlgE1--7) catalyzing the polymer level epimerization of beta-D-mannuronic acid (M) to alpha-L-guluronic acid (G) in the commercially important polysaccharide alginate. AlgE1--7 are composed of two types of protein modules, A and R, and the A-modules have previously been found to be sufficient for epimerization. AlgE7 is both an epimerase and an alginase, and here we show that the lyase activity is Ca(2+)-dependent and also responds similarly to the epimerases in the presence of other divalent cations. The AlgE7 lyase degraded M-rich alginates and a relatively G-rich alginate from the brown algae Macrocystis pyrifera most effectively, producing oligomers of 4 (mannuronan) to 7 units. The sequences cleaved were mainly G/MM and/or G/GM. Since G-moieties dominated at the reducing ends even when mannuronan was used as substrate, the AlgE7 epimerase probably stimulates the lyase pathway, indicating a complex interplay between the two activities. A truncated form of AlgE1 (AlgE1-1) was converted to a combined epimerase and lyase by replacing the 5'-798 base pairs in the algE1-1 gene with the corresponding A-module-encoding DNA sequence from algE7. Furthermore, substitution of an aspartic acid residue at position 152 with glycine in AlgE7A eliminated almost all of both the lyase and epimerase activities. Epimerization and lyase activity are believed to be mechanistically related, and the results reported here strongly support this hypothesis by suggesting that the same enzymatic site can catalyze both reactions.

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