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Eur J Biochem. 1994 Sep 1;224(2):497-506.

Gene cloning and characterization of PepC, a cysteine aminopeptidase from Streptococcus thermophilus, with sequence similarity to the eucaryotic bleomycin hydrolase.

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Unité d'Enzymologie, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Jouy-en-Josas, France.


Streptococcus thermophilus CNRZ 302 contains at least three general aminopeptidases able to hydrolyze Phe-beta-naphthylamide substrate. The gene encoding one of these aminopeptidases was cloned from a total DNA library of S. thermophilus CNRZ 302 constructed in Escherichia coli TG1 using pBluescript plasmid. The wild-type TG1 strain, although not deficient in aminopeptidase activity, is unable to hydrolyze the substrate Phe-beta-naphthylamide, and thus the library could be screened with an enzymic plate assay using this substrate. One clone was selected which was shown to express an aminopeptidase, identified as a PepC-like enzyme on the basis of cross-reactivity with polyclonal antibodies directed against the lactococcal PepC cysteine aminopeptidase. The gene was further subcloned and sequenced. A complete open reading frame coding for a 445-residue (50414 Da) polypeptide was identified. 70% identity was found between the deduced amino acid sequence and the sequence of PepC from Lactococcus lactis subspecies cremoris, confirming the identity of the cloned gene. High sequence similarity (38% identity) was also found with an eucaryotic enzyme, bleomycin hydrolase. In addition, the predicted amino acid sequence of the streptococcal PepC showed a region of strong similarity to the active site of cysteine proteinases with conservation of the residues involved in the catalytic site. The product of the cloned pepC gene was overproduced in E. coli and was purified from a cellular extract. Purification to homogeneity was achieved by two-step ion-exchange chromatography. Biochemical characterization of the pure recombinant enzyme confirms that the cloned peptidase is a thiol aminopeptidase possessing a broad specificity. The enzyme has a molecular mass of 300 kDa suggesting an hexameric structure. On the basis of sequence similarities as well as common biochemical and enzymic properties, the bacterial PepC-type enzymes and the eucaryotic bleomycin hydrolase constitute a new family of thiol aminopeptidases among the cysteine peptidases.

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