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J Bacteriol. 2002 Sep;184(18):4988-5000.

Purification and polar localization of pneumococcal LytB, a putative endo-beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase: the chain-dispersing murein hydrolase.

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


The DNA region encoding the mature form of a pneumococcal murein hydrolase (LytB) was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli. LytB was purified by affinity chromatography, and its activity was suggested to be the first identified endo-beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase of Streptococcus pneumoniae. LytB can remove a maximum of only 25% of the radioactivity from [(3)H]choline-labeled pneumococcal cell walls in in vitro assays. Inactivation of the lytB gene of wild-type strain R6 (R6B mutant) led to the formation of long chains but did not affect either total cell wall hydrolytic activity at the stationary phase of growth or development of genetic competence. Longer chains were formed when the lytB mutation was introduced into the M31 strain (M31B mutant), which harbors a complete deletion of lytA, which codes for the major autolysin. Furthermore, the use of this mutant revealed that LytB is the first nonautolytic murein hydrolase of pneumococcus. Purified LytB added to pneumococcal cultures of R6B or M31B was capable of dispersing, in a dose-dependent manner, the long chains characteristic of these mutants into diplococci or short chains, the typical morphology of R6 and M31 strains, respectively. In vitro acetylation of purified pneumococcal cell walls did not affect the activity of LytB, whereas that of the LytA amidase was drastically reduced. On the other hand, the use of a translational fusion between the gene (gfp) coding for the green fluorescent protein (GFP) and lytB supports the notion that LytB accumulates in the cell poles of either the wild-type R6, lytB mutants, or ethanolamine-containing cells (EA cells). The GFP-LytB fusion protein was also able to unchain the lytB mutants but not the EA cells. In contrast, translational fusion protein GFP-LytA preferentially bound to the equatorial regions of choline-containing cells but did not affect their average chain length. These observations suggest the existence of specific receptors for LytB that are positioned at the polar region on the pneumococcal surface, allowing localized peptidoglycan hydrolysis and separation of the daughter cells.

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