Probing the Role of N-Linked Glycans in the Stability and Activity of Fungal Cellobiohydrolases by Mutational Analysis

William S. Adney, Tina Jeoh, Gregg T. Beckham, Yat Chen Chou, John O. Baker, William Michener, Roman Brunecky, Michael E. Himmel

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76 Scopus Citations


The filamentous fungi Trichoderma reesei and Penicillium funiculosum produce highly effective enzyme mixtures that degrade the cellulose and hemicellulose components of plant cell walls. Many fungal species produce a glycoside hydrolase family 7 (Cel7A) cellobiohydrolase, a class of enzymes that catalytically process from the reducing end of cellulose. A direct amino acid comparison of these two enzymes shows that they not only have high amino acid homology, but also contain analogous N-linked glycosylation sites on the catalytic domain. We have previously shown (Jeoh et al. in Biotechnol Biofuels, 1:10, 2008) that expression of T. reesei cellobiohydrolase I in a commonly used industrial expression host, Aspergillus niger var. awamori, results in an increase in the amount of N-linked glycosylation of the enzyme, which negatively affects crystalline cellulose degradation activity as well as thermal stability. This complementary study examines the significance of individual N-linked glycans on the surface of the catalytic domain of Cel7A cellobiohydrolases from T. reesei and P. funiculosum by genetically adding or removing N-linked glycosylation motifs using site directed mutagenesis. Modified enzymes, expressed in A. niger var. awamori, were tested for activity and thermal stability. It was concluded that N-linked glycans in peptide loops that form part of the active site tunnel have the greatest impact on both thermal stability and enzymatic activity on crystalline cellulose for both the T. reesei and P. funiculosum Cel7A enzymes. Specifically, for the Cel7A T. reesei enzyme expressed in A. niger var. awamori, removal of the N384 glycosylation site yields a mutant with 70% greater activity after 120 h compared to the heterologously expressed wild type T. reesei enzyme. In addition, similar activity improvements were found to be associated with the addition of a new glycosylation motif at N194 in P. funiculosum. This mutant also exhibits 70% greater activity after 120 h compared to the wild type P. funiculosum enzyme expressed in A. niger var. awamori. Overall, this study demonstrates that "tuning" enzyme glycosylation for expression from heterologous expression hosts is essential for generating engineered enzymes with optimal stability and activity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)699-709
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-270-45480


  • Cellobiohydrolase (Cel7)
  • Cellulase
  • Glycoforms
  • N-linked glycosylation
  • Penicillium funiculosum
  • Site-directed mutagenesis
  • Trichoderma reesei


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