Identification and Mutation Analysis of Nonconserved Residues on the TIM-Barrel Surface of GH5_5 Cellulases for Catalytic Efficiency and Stability Improvement
Appl Environ Microbiol. 2022 Aug 24:e0104622. doi: 10.1128/aem.01046-22. Online ahead of print.
Exploring the potential functions of nonconserved residues on the outer side of α-helices and systematically optimizing them are pivotal for their application in protein engineering. Based on the evolutionary structural conservation analysis of GH5_5 cellulases, a practical molecular improvement strategy was developed. Highly variable sites on the outer side of the α-helices of the GH5_5 cellulase from Aspergillus niger (AnCel5A) were screened, and 14 out of the 34 highly variable sites were confirmed to exert a positive effect on the activity. After the modular combination of the positive mutations, the catalytic efficiency of the mutants was further improved. By using CMC-Na as the substrate, the catalytic efficiency and specific activity of variant AnCel5A_N193A/T300P/D307P were approximately 2.0-fold that of AnCel5A (227 ± 21 versus 451 ± 43 ml/s/mg and 1,726 ± 19 versus 3,472 ± 42 U/mg, respectively). The half-life (t1/2) of variant AnCel5A_N193A/T300P/D307P at 75°C was 2.36 times that of AnCel5A. The role of these sites was successfully validated in other GH5_5 cellulases. Computational analyses revealed that the flexibility of the loop 6-loop 7-loop 8 region was responsible for the increased catalytic performance. This work not only illustrated the important role of rapidly evolving positions on the outer side of the α-helices of GH5_5 cellulases but also revealed new insights into engineering the proteins that nature left as clues for us to find. IMPORTANCE A comprehensive understanding of the residues on the α-helices of the GH5_5 cellulases is important for catalytic efficiency and stability improvement. The main objective of this study was to use the evolutionary conservation and plasticity of the TIM-barrel fold to probe the relationship between nonconserved residues on the outer side of the α-helices and the catalytic efficiency of GH5_5 cellulases by conducting structure-guided protein engineering. By using a four-step nonconserved residue screening strategy, the functional role of nonconserved residues on the outer side of the α-helices was effectively identified, and a variant with superior performance and capability was constructed. Hence, this study proved the effectiveness of this strategy in engineering GH5_5 cellulases and provided a potential competitor for industrial applications. Furthermore, this study sheds new light on engineering TIM-barrel proteins.