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Multiscale Characterization of Complex Binding Interactions of Cellulolytic Enzymes Highlights Limitations of Classical Approaches

By Shishir P. S. Chundawat, Bhargava Nemmaru, Markus Hackl, Sonia K. Brady, Mark A. Hilton, Madeline M. Johnson, Sungrok Chang, Matthew J. Lang, Hyun Huh, Sang-Hyuk Lee, John M. Yarbrough, Cesar A. López, S Gnanakaran

Posted 10 May 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.08.084152

Cellulolytic microorganisms, like Trichoderma reesei or Clostridium thermocellum, frequently have non-catalytic carbohydrate-binding modules (CBMs) associated with secreted or cell surface bound multidomain carbohydrate-active enzymes (CAZymes) like cellulases. Mostly type-A family CBMs are known to promote cellulose deconstruction by increasing the substrate-bound concentration of cognate cellulase catalytic domains. However, due to the interfacial nature of cellulose hydrolysis and the structural heterogeneity of cellulose, it has been challenging to fully understand the role of CBMs on cellulase activity using classical protein-ligand binding assays. Here, we report a single-molecule CAZyme assay for an industrially relevant processive cellulase Cel7A (from T. reesei) to reveal how subtle CBM1 binding differences can drastically impact cellulase motility/velocity and commitment to initial processive motion for deconstruction of two well-studied crystalline cellulose allomorphs (namely cellulose I and III). We take a multifaceted approach to characterize the complex binding interactions of all major type-A family representative CBMs including CBM1, using an optical-tweezers based single-molecule CBM-cellulose bond rupture assay to complement several classical bulk ensemble protein-ligand binding characterization methods. While our work provides a basis for the cautious use of Langmuir-type adsorption models to characterize classical protein-ligand binding assay data, we highlight the critical limitations of using such overly simplistic models to gain a truly molecular-level understanding of interfacial protein binding interactions at heterogeneous solid-liquid interfaces. Finally, molecular dynamics simulations provided a theoretical basis for the complex binding behavior seen for CBM1 towards two distinct cellulose allomorphs reconciling experimental findings from multiscale analytical methods. ### Competing Interest Statement SPSC declares a competing financial interest(s) having filed two patent applications on pretreatment processes to produce cellulose-III enriched cellulosic biomass for biofuels production (US20130244293A1and WO2011133571A2). All other authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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