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Exo-beta-N-acetylmuramidase NamZ of Bacillus subtilis is the founding member of a family of exo-lytic peptidoglycan hexosaminidases

By Maraike Müller, Matthew Calvert, Isabel Hottmann, Robert Maria Kluj, Tim Teufel, Katja Balbuchta, Alicia Engelbrecht, Khaled A Selim, Qingping Xu, Marina Borisova, Alexander Titz, Christoph Mayer

Posted 12 Jan 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.10.425899

Endo-{beta}-N-acetylmuramidases, commonly known as lysozymes, are well-characterized antimicrobial enzymes that potentially lyse bacterial cells. They catalyze an endo-lytic cleavage of the peptidoglycan, the structural component of the bacterial cell wall; i.e. they hydrolyze glycosidic N-acetylmuramic acid (MurNAc)-{beta}-1,4-N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc)-bonds within the heteroglycan backbone of peptidoglycan. In contrast, little is known about exo-{beta}-N-acetylmuramidases, catalyzing an exo-lytic cleavage of {beta}-1,4-MurNAc entities from the non-reducing ends of peptidoglycan chains. Such an enzyme was identified earlier in the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, but the corresponding gene has remained unknown so far. We identified ybbC of B. subtilis, renamed namZ, as encoding the reported exo-{beta}-N-acetylmuramidase. A {Delta}namZ mutant accumulated specific cell wall fragments and showed growth defects under starvation conditions, indicating a role of NamZ in cell wall turnover. Recombinant NamZ protein specifically hydrolyzed the artificial substrate para-nitrophenyl {beta}-MurNAc and the peptidoglycan-derived disaccharide MurNAc-{beta}-1,4-GlcNAc. Together with the exo-{beta}-N-acetylglucosaminidase NagZ and the exo-muramoyl-L-alanine amidase AmiE, NamZ degraded intact peptidoglycan by sequential hydrolysis from the non-reducing ends. NamZ is a member of the DUF1343 protein family of unknown function and shows no significant sequence identity with known glycosidases. A structural model of NamZ revealed a putative active site located in a cleft within the interface of two subdomains, one of which constituting a Rossmann-fold-like domain, unusual for glycosidases. On this basis, we propose that NamZ represents the founding member of a novel family of peptidoglycan hexosaminidases, which is mainly present in the phylum Bacteroidetes and, less frequently, within Firmicutes (Bacilli, Clostridia), Actinobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria.

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