Two catalytic domains, A and C, of xylanase A (XYLA) from Ruminococcus flavefaciens were expressed separately as truncated gene products from lacZ fusions in Escherichia coli. The fusion products, referred to respectively as XYLA-A1 and XYLA-C2, were purified to homogeneity by anion-exchange chromatography and chromatofocusing. XYLA-A1 was isoelectric at pH 5.0 and had a molecular mass of 30 kDa, whereas XYLA-C2 had a pI of 5.4 and a molecular mass of 44 kDa. The catalytic activity shown by both domains was optimal at 50 degrees C, but XYLA-A1 was more sensitive than XYLA-C2 to temperatures higher than the optimum. XYLA-A1 showed a higher sensitivity to pH than XYLA-C2. The enzyme activity of both domains was completely inactivated in the presence of copper or silver ions and partially inactivated by iron or zinc ions. Neither domain was active on xylo-oligosaccharides shorter than xylopentaose: the rate of degradation of longer xylo-oligosaccharides (degree of polymerization 5-10) increased as the chain length increased. Analysis of the products of hydrolysis of xylo-oligosaccharides and xylan (arabinoxylan) polysaccharide showed that the two domains differed in their modes of action: xylobiose was the shortest product of the hydrolysis. With oat spelt xylan as substrate, XYLA-A1 activity was apparently restricted to regions where xylopyranosyl residues did not carry arabinofuranosyl substituents, whereas XYLA-C2 was able to release hetero-oligosaccharides carrying arabinofuranosyl residues. Neither domain was able to release arabinose from oat spelt xylan.

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