Novel metagenome-derived carboxylesterase that hydrolyzes β-lactam antibiotics

Jeong Ho Jeon, Soo Jin Kim, Hyun Sook Lee, Sun Shin Cha, Jung Hun Lee, Sang Hong Yoon, Bon Sung Koo, Chang Muk Lee, Sang Ho Choi, Sang Hee Lee, Sung Gyun Kang, Jung Hyun Lee

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65 Scopus citations


It has been proposed that family VIII carboxylesterases and class C β-lactamases are phylogenetically related; however, none of carboxylesterases has been reported to hydrolyze β-lactam antibiotics except nitrocefin, a nonclinical chromogenic substrate. Here, we describe the first example of a novel carboxylesterase derived from a metagenome that is able to cleave the amide bond of various β-lactam substrates and the ester bond of p-nitrophenyl esters. A clone with lipolytic activity was selected by functional screening of a metagenomic library using tributyrin agar plates. The sequence analysis of the clone revealed the presence of an open reading frame (estU1) encoding a polypeptide of 426 amino acids, retaining an S-X-X-K motif that is conserved in class C β-lactamases and family VIII carboxylesterases. The gene was overexpressed in Escherichia coli, and the purified recombinant protein (EstU1) was further characterized. EstU1 showed esterase activity toward various chromogenic p-nitrophenyl esters. In addition, it exhibited hydrolytic activity toward nitrocefin, leading us to investigate whether EstU1 could hydrolyze β-lactam antibiotics. EstU1 was able to hydrolyze firstgeneration β-lactam antibiotics, such as cephalosporins, cephaloridine, cephalothin, and cefazolin. In a kinetic study, EstU1 showed a similar range of substrate affinities for both p-nitrophenyl butyrate and first-generation cephalosporins while the turnover efficiency for the latter was much lower. Furthermore, site-directed mutagenesis studies revealed that the catalytic triad of EstU1 plays a crucial role in hydrolyzing both ester bonds of p-nitrophenyl esters and amide bonds of the β-lactam ring of antibiotics, implicating the predicted catalytic triad of EstU1 in both activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7830-7836
Number of pages7
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2011


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