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Eur J Biochem. 1994 Sep 15;224(3):991-7.

Characterization and expression of the Lactobacillus helveticus pepC gene encoding a general aminopeptidase.

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Agricultural Research Centre of Finland, Food Research Institute, Jokioinen.


An aminopeptidase C gene (pepC) was detected by nucleic acid hybridization from an industrially important Lactobacillus helveticus strain. Three hybridization positive clones were isolated from a gene library of this L. helveticus strain, and one of them was characterized in more detail. Deletion mapping localized the hybridization positivity into a 2.8-kb fragment, which also encoded aminopeptidase activity. This fragment was sequenced and two open reading frames (ORF1 and 2) of 1347 and 840 base pairs were identified. The ORF1 was preceded by a typical prokaryotic promoter region, and an inverted repeat structure with delta G of -49.0 kJ mol-1 was found downstream of the coding region. The deduced amino acid sequence of ORF1, with an encoding capacity for a 51.4-kDa protein, was shown to share 48.3% and 98.0% identities with the PepC proteins from Lactococcus lactis and L. helveticus CNRZ32, respectively, thus confirming that ORF1 codes for an aminopeptidase C. mRNA size analyses revealed 1.7-kb and 2.7-kb transcripts in Northern blot with the pepC-specific probe. A further analysis with the pepC- and ORF2-specific probes showed that downstream ORF2 is co-transcribed with the pepC gene at the exponential phase of growth whereas, at the stationary growth phase, transcripts derived from the pepC promoter were below the detection limit, and the ORF2 was expressed by its own promoter. The 5' end mapping of the pepC transcripts with primer extension revealed one transcription start site suggesting a new position for the pepC promoter region when compared to that predicted for the L. helveticus CNRZ32 pepC gene. Expression of pepC was also studied in L. helveticus as the function of growth in a bioreactor study. Transcription of pepC was typical to exponential growth phase expression. The level of total thiol-aminopeptidase activity, however, remained nearly constant throughout the stationary growth phase.

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