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Chem Rec. 2001;1(1):24-32.

The Clostridium cellulovorans cellulosome: an enzyme complex with plant cell wall degrading activity.

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Section of Molecular & Cellular Biology, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


Cellulose comprises a major portion of biomass on the earth, and the turnover of this material contributes to the CO2 cycle. Cellulases, which play a major role in the turnover of cellulosic materials, have been found either as free enzymes that work synergistically, or as an enzyme complex called the cellulosome. This review summarizes some of the general properties of cellulosomes, and more specifically, the properties of the Clostridium cellulovorans cellulosome. The C cellulovorans cellulosome is an extracellular enzyme complex with a molecular weight of about 1 x 10(6), and is comprised of at least ten subunits. The major subunit is the scaffolding protein CbpA, with a molecular weight of 189,000. This nonenzymatic subunit contains a cellulose binding domain (CBD) that binds the cellulosome to the substrate, nine conserved cohesins or enzyme binding domains, and four conserved surface layer homologous (SLH) domains. It is postulated that the SLH domains help to bind the cellulosome to the cell surface. The cellulosomal enzymes include cellulases (family 5 and 9 endoglucanases and a family 48 exoglucanase), a mannanase, a xylanase, and a pectate lyase. The cellulosome is capable of converting Arabidopsis and tobacco plant cells to protoplasts. One of the endoglucanases, EngE, contains three tandemly repeated SLHs at its N-terminus, and therefore appears capable of binding to the scaffolding protein CbpA as well as to the cell surface. Cellulosomes can attack crystalline cellulose, but the free cellulosomal enzymes can attack only soluble and amorphous celluloses. Nine genes for the cellulosome are found in a gene cluster cbpA-exgS-engH-engK-hbpA-engL-manA-engM-engN. Other cellulosomal genes such as engB, engE, and engY are not linked to the major gene cluster or to each other. By determining the structure and function of the cellulosome, we hope to increase the efficiency of the cellulosome by genetic engineering techniques.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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