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J Bacteriol. 2003 Sep;185(18):5473-82.

Biochemical characterization of a beta-galactosidase with a low temperature optimum obtained from an Antarctic arthrobacter isolate.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA.


A psychrophilic gram-positive isolate was obtained from Antarctic Dry Valley soil. It utilized lactose, had a rod-coccus cycle, and contained lysine as the diamino acid in its cell wall. Consistent with these physiological traits, the 16S ribosomal DNA sequence showed that it was phylogenetically related to other Arthrobacter species. A gene (bgaS) encoding a family 2 beta-galactosidase was cloned from this organism into an Escherichia coli host. Preliminary results showed that the enzyme was cold active (optimal activity at 18 degrees C and 50% activity remaining at 0 degrees C) and heat labile (inactivated within 10 min at 37 degrees C). To enable rapid purification, vectors were constructed adding histidine residues to the BgaS enzyme and its E. coli LacZ counterpart, which was purified for comparison. The His tag additions reduced the specific activities of both beta-galactosidases but did not alter the other characteristics of the enzymes. Kinetic studies using o-nitrophenyl-beta-D-galactopyranoside showed that BgaS with and without a His tag had greater catalytic activity at and below 20 degrees C than the comparable LacZ beta-galactosidases. The BgaS heat lability was investigated by ultracentrifugation, where the active enzyme was a homotetramer at 4 degrees C but dissociated into inactive monomers at 25 degrees C. Comparisons of family 2 beta-galactosidase amino acid compositions and modeling studies with the LacZ structure did not mimic suggested trends for conferring enzyme flexibility at low temperatures, consistent with the changes affecting thermal adaptation being localized and subtle. Mutation studies of the BgaS enzyme should aid our understanding of such specific, localized changes affecting enzyme thermal properties.

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