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J Comput Aided Mol Des. 2008 Jan;22(1):19-28. Epub 2007 Dec 1.

An eleven amino acid residue deletion expands the substrate specificity of acetyl xylan esterase II (AXE II) from Penicillium purpurogenum.

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Departamento de Genética Molecular y Microbiología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile.


The soft-rot fungus Penicillium purpurogenum secretes to the culture medium a variety of enzymes related to xylan biodegradation, among them three acetyl xylan esterases (AXE I, II and III). AXE II has 207 amino acids; it belongs to family 5 of the carbohydrate esterases and its structure has been determined by X-ray crystallography at 0.9 A resolution (PDB 1G66). The enzyme possesses the alpha/beta hydrolase fold and the catalytic triad typical of serine esterases (Ser90, His187 and Asp175). AXE II can hydrolyze esters of a large variety of alcohols, but it is restricted to short chain fatty acids. An analysis of its three-dimensional structure shows that a loop that covers the active site may be responsible for this strict specificity. Cutinase, an enzyme that hydrolyzes esters of long chain fatty acids and shows a structure similar to AXE II, lacks this loop. In order to generate an AXE II with this broader specificity, the preparation of a mutant lacking residues involving this loop (Gly104 to Ala114) was proposed. A set of molecular simulation experiments based on a comparative model of the mutant enzyme predicted a stable structure. Using site-directed mutagenesis, the loop's residues have been eliminated from the AXE II cDNA. The mutant protein has been expressed in Aspergillus nidulans A722 and Pichia pastoris, and it is active towards a range of fatty acid esters of up to at least 14 carbons. The availability of an esterase with broader specificity may have biotechnological applications for the synthesis of sugar esters.

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