A genomic library of Pseudomonas fluorescens subsp. cellulosa DNA was constructed in pUC18 and Escherichia coli recombinants expressing 4-methylumbelliferyl beta-D-cellobioside-hydrolysing activity (MUCase) were isolated. Enzyme produced by MUCase-positive clones did not hydrolyse either cellobiose or cellotriose but converted cellotetraose into cellobiose and cleaved cellopentaose and cellohexaose, producing a mixture of cellobiose and cellotriose. There was no activity against CM-cellulose, insoluble cellulose or xylan. On this basis, the enzyme is identified as an endo-acting cellodextrinase and is designated cellodextrinase C (CELC). Nucleotide sequencing of the gene (celC) which directs the synthesis of CELC revealed an open reading frame of 2153 bp, encoding a protein of Mr 80,189. The deduced primary sequence of CELC was confirmed by the Mr of purified CELC (77,000) and by the experimentally determined N-terminus of the enzyme which was identical with residues 38-47 of the translated sequence. The N-terminal region of CELC showed strong homology with endoglucanase, xylanases and an arabinofuranosidase of Ps. fluorescens subsp. cellulosa; homologous sequences included highly conserved serine-rich regions. Full-length CELC bound tightly to crystalline cellulose. Truncated forms of celC from which the DNA sequence encoding the conserved domain had been deleted, directed the synthesis of a functional cellodextrinase that did not bind to crystalline cellulose. This is consistent with the N-terminal region of CELC comprising a non-catalytic cellulose-binding domain which is distinct from the catalytic domain. The role of the cellulose-binding region is discussed.

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