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Open Access Research article

Heterologous expression, purification and characterization of nitrilase from Aspergillus niger K10

Ondřej Kaplan1, Karel Bezouška12, Ondřej Plíhal1, Rüdiger Ettrich3, Natallia Kulik3, Ondřej Vaněk12, Daniel Kavan12, Oldřich Benada1, Anna Malandra14, Ondřej Šveda1, Alicja B Veselá1, Anna Rinágelová1, Kristýna Slámová1, Maria Cantarella4, Jürgen Felsberg1, Jarmila Dušková5, Jan Dohnálek5, Michael Kotik1, Vladimír Křen1 and Ludmila Martínková1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Vídeňská 1083, CZ-142 20 Prague, Czech Republic

2 Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague, Hlavova 8, CZ-128 40 Prague, Czech Republic

3 Centre of Biocatalysis and Biotransformation, Institute of Systems Biology and Ecology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Zámek 136, 373 33 Nové Hrady, Czech Republic

4 Department of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Materials, University of L'Aquila, Via Campo di Pile - Zona industriale di Pile, I-67100 L'Aquila, Italy

5 Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Heyrovského náměstí 2, CZ-162 06 Prague, Czech Republic

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BMC Biotechnology 2011, 11:2  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-11-2

Published: 6 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Nitrilases attract increasing attention due to their utility in the mild hydrolysis of nitriles. According to activity and gene screening, filamentous fungi are a rich source of nitrilases distinct in evolution from their widely examined bacterial counterparts. However, fungal nitrilases have been less explored than the bacterial ones. Nitrilases are typically heterogeneous in their quaternary structures, forming short spirals and extended filaments, these features making their structural studies difficult.

Results

A nitrilase gene was amplified by PCR from the cDNA library of Aspergillus niger K10. The PCR product was ligated into expression vectors pET-30(+) and pRSET B to construct plasmids pOK101 and pOK102, respectively. The recombinant nitrilase (Nit-ANigRec) expressed in Escherichia coli BL21-Gold(DE3)(pOK101/pTf16) was purified with an about 2-fold increase in specific activity and 35% yield. The apparent subunit size was 42.7 kDa, which is approx. 4 kDa higher than that of the enzyme isolated from the native organism (Nit-ANigWT), indicating post-translational cleavage in the enzyme's native environment. Mass spectrometry analysis showed that a C-terminal peptide (Val327 - Asn356) was present in Nit-ANigRec but missing in Nit-ANigWT and Asp298-Val313 peptide was shortened to Asp298-Arg310 in Nit-ANigWT. The latter enzyme was thus truncated by 46 amino acids. Enzymes Nit-ANigRec and Nit-ANigWT differed in substrate specificity, acid/amide ratio, reaction optima and stability. Refolded recombinant enzyme stored for one month at 4°C was fractionated by gel filtration, and fractions were examined by electron microscopy. The late fractions were further analyzed by analytical centrifugation and dynamic light scattering, and shown to consist of a rather homogeneous protein species composed of 12-16 subunits. This hypothesis was consistent with electron microscopy and our modelling of the multimeric nitrilase, which supports an arrangement of dimers into helical segments as a plausible structural solution.

Conclusions

The nitrilase from Aspergillus niger K10 is highly homologous (≥86%) with proteins deduced from gene sequencing in Aspergillus and Penicillium genera. As the first of these proteins, it was shown to exhibit nitrilase activity towards organic nitriles. The comparison of the Nit-ANigRec and Nit-ANigWT suggested that the catalytic properties of nitrilases may be changed due to missing posttranslational cleavage of the former enzyme. Nit-ANigRec exhibits a lower tendency to form filaments and, moreover, the sample homogeneity can be further improved by in vitro protein refolding. The homogeneous protein species consisting of short spirals is expected to be more suitable for structural studies.