Esterase autodisplay: enzyme engineering and whole-cell activity determination in microplates with ph sensors

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Among the GDSL family of serine esterases/lipases is a group of bacterial enzymes that posses C-terminal extensions involved in outer membrane anchoring or translocation. ApeE from Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium, a member of this group, has been expressed in Escherichia coli and was resistant to protease digestion when the protease was added to whole cells, indicating a periplasmic localization. The five consensus blocks conserved within all GDSL esterases were identified in ApeE by multiple sequence alignment and separated from the C-terminal extension. The DNA sequence spanning the four invariant residues Ser, Gly, Asn, and His, and hence representing the catalytic domains of ApeE, was amplified by PCR and fused in frame to the transport domains of the autodisplay system. The resulting artificial esterase, called EsjA, was overexpressed in the cell envelope of E. coli and was shown to be active by the use of -naphthyl acetate (-NA) as a substrate in an in-gel activity stain after sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Surface exposure of EsjA was indicated by its accessibility to protease added to whole cells. The esterase activity of whole cells displaying EsjA was determined by a pH agar assay and by the use of microplates with integrated pH-dependent optical sensors. -NA, -naphthyl butyrate, and -naphthyl caproate were used as substrates, and it turned out that the substrate preferences of artificial EsjA were altered in comparison to original ApeE. Our results indicate that autodisplay of esterase in combination with pH sensor microplates can provide a new platform technology for the screening of tailor-made hydrolase activities.

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