Open Access Research article

Enzymatic and molecular characterisation of leucine aminopeptidase of Burkholderia pseudomallei

Siew Mun Liew1, Sun Tee Tay1* and Savithiri D Puthucheary12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, 50603, Malaysia

2 Medical Education, Research & Evaluation Department, Duke-Nus Graduate Medical School Singapore, 8 College Road, Singapore, 169857, Singapore

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Microbiology 2013, 13:110  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-13-110

Published: 17 May 2013



Leucine aminopeptidase (LAP) has been known to be a housekeeping protease, DNA-binding protein and repressor or activator in the operon regulation of virulence-associated genes in several bacterial species. LAP activity was consistently detected in overnight cultures of Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis and this enzyme was partially purified and characterised in this study. The intra- and inter-species nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequence variation of LAP encoding gene (pepA) was determined. A pepA/PCR-RFLP assay was designed to facilitate the identification of major LAP sequence types amongst clinical and environmental isolates of B. pseudomallei.


LAP activity was detected in B. pseudomallei culture supernantants by zymographic analysis. Optimum activity was at pH 9 and stable at 50°C. Enhanced enzymatic activity was observed in the presence of metallic ions Mg2+, Ca2+, Na+ and K+. LAP activity was inhibited by EDTA, 1,10-phenanthroline, amastatin, Mn2+ and Zn2+. Sequence analysis of the complete nucleotide and deduced amino acid sequences of LAP-encoding (pepA) gene showed close genetic relatedness to B. mallei (similarity 99.7%/99.6%), but not with B. thailandensis (96.4%/96.4%). Eight pepA sequence types were identified by comparison with a 596 bp DNA fragment encompassing central regions of the pepA gene. A pepA/PCR-RFLP was designed to differentiate pepA sequence types. Based on restriction analysis with StuI and HincII enzymes of the amplified pepA gene, clinical and environmental isolates showed different predominant RFLP types. Type I was the most predominant type amongst 73.6% (67/91) of the clinical isolates, while Type II was predominant in 55.6% (5/9) of the environmental isolates.


This study showed that LAP is a secretory product of B. pseudomallei with features similar to LAP of other organisms. Identification of major LAP sequence types of B. pseudomallei was made possible based on RFLP analysis of the pepA gene. The high LAP activity detected in both B. pseudomallei and B. thailandensis, suggests that LAP is probably a housekeeping enzyme rather than a virulence determinant.

Leucine aminopeptidase; Burkholderia pseudomallei; PCR-RFLP