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J Biol Chem. 2004 May 14;279(20):21552-9. Epub 2004 Mar 5.

The family 6 carbohydrate binding module CmCBM6-2 contains two ligand-binding sites with distinct specificities.

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  • 1School of Cell and Molecular Biosciences, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, United Kingdom.


The microbial degradation of the plant cell wall is an important biological process, representing a major component of the carbon cycle. Enzymes that mediate the hydrolysis of this composite structure are modular proteins that contain non-catalytic carbohydrate binding modules (CBMs) that enhance catalytic activity. CBMs are grouped into sequence-based families, and in a previous study we showed that a family 6 CBM (CBM6) that interacts with xylan contains two potential ligand binding clefts, designated cleft A and cleft B. Mutagenesis and NMR studies showed that only cleft A in this protein binds to xylan. Family 6 CBMs bind to a range of polysaccharides, and it was proposed that the variation in ligand specificity observed in these proteins reflects the specific cleft that interacts with the target carbohydrate. Here the biochemical properties of the C-terminal cellulose binding CBM6 (CmCBM6-2) from Cellvibrio mixtus endoglucanase 5A were investigated. The CBM binds to the beta1,4-beta1,3-mixed linked glucans lichenan and barley beta-glucan, cello-oligosaccharides, insoluble forms of cellulose, the beta1,3-glucan laminarin, and xylooligosaccharides. Mutagenesis studies, informed by the crystal structure of the protein (presented in the accompanying paper, Pires, V. M. R., Henshaw, J. L., Prates, J. A. M., Bolam, D., Ferreira, L. M. A. Fontes, C. M. G. A., Henrissat, B., Planas, A., Gilbert, H. J., Czjzek, M. (2004) J. Biol. Chem. 279, 21560-21568), show that both cleft A and B can accommodate cello-oligosaccharides and laminarin displays a preference for cleft A, whereas xylooligosaccharides exhibit absolute specificity for this site, and the beta1,4,-beta1,3-mixed linked glucans interact only with cleft B. The binding of CmCBM6-2 to insoluble cellulose involves synergistic interactions between cleft A and cleft B. These data show that CmCBM6-2 contains two binding sites that display differences in ligand specificity, supporting the view that distinct binding clefts with different specificities can contribute to the variation in ligand recognition displayed by family 6 CBMs. This is in sharp contrast to other CBM families, where variation in ligand binding is a result of changes in the topology of a single carbohydrate-binding site.

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