Biochemical characterization of a family 15 carbohydrate esterase from a bacterial marine Arctic metagenome
Background The glucuronoyl esterase enzymes of wood-degrading fungi (Carbohydrate Esterase family 15; CE15) form part of the hemicellulolytic and cellulolytic enzyme systems that break down plant biomass, and have possible applications in biotechnology. Homologous enzymes are predicted in the genomes of several bacteria, however these have been much less studied than their fungal counterparts. Here we describe the recombinant production and biochemical characterization of a bacterial CE15 enzyme denoted MZ0003, which was identified by in silico screening of a prokaryotic metagenome library derived from marine Arctic sediment. MZ0003 has high similarity to several uncharacterized gene products of polysaccharide-degrading bacterial species, and phylogenetic analysis indicates a deep evolutionary split between these CE15s and fungal homologs. Results MZ0003 appears to differ from previously-studied CE15s in some aspects. Some glucuronoyl esterase activity could be measured by qualitative thin-layer chromatography which confirms its assignment as a CE15, however MZ0003 can also hydrolyze a range of other esters, including p-nitrophenyl acetate, which is not acted upon by some fungal homologs. The structure of MZ0003 also appears to differ as it is predicted to have several large loop regions that are absent in previously studied CE15s, and a combination of homology-based modelling and site-directed mutagenesis indicate its catalytic residues deviate from the conserved Ser-His-Glu triad of many fungal CE15s. Taken together, these results indicate that potentially unexplored diversity exists among bacterial CE15s, and this may be accessed by investigation of the microbial metagenome. The combination of low activity on typical glucuronoyl esterase substrates, and the lack of glucuronic acid esters in the marine environment suggest that the physiological substrate of MZ0003 and its homologs is likely to be different from that of related fungal enzymes.