Mycobacterium leprae has two high-molecular-mass multimodular penicillin-binding proteins (PBPs) of class A, termed PBP1 and PBP1* [Lepage, Dubois, Ghosh, Joris, Mahapatra, Kundu, Basu, Chakrabarti, Cole, Nguyen-Disteche and Ghuysen (1997) J. Bacteriol. 179, 4627–4630]. PBP1-Xaa–β-lactamase fusions generated periplasmic β-lactamase activity when Xaa (the amino acid of PBP1 at the fusion junction) was residue 314, 363, 407, 450 or 480. Truncation of the N-terminal part of the protein up to residue Leu-147 generated a penicillin-binding polypeptide which could still associate with the plasma membrane, whereas [∆M1–R314]PBP1 (PBP1 lacking residues Met-1 to Arg-314) failed to associate with the membrane, suggesting that the region between residues Leu-147 and Arg-314 harbours an additional plasma membrane association site for PBP1. Truncation of the C-terminus up to 42 residues downstream of the KTG (Lys-Thr-Gly) motif also generated a polypeptide that retained penicillin-binding activity. [∆M1–R314]PBP1 could be extracted from inclusion bodies and refolded under appropriate conditions to give a form capable of binding penicillin with the same efficiency as full-length PBP1. This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first report of a soluble derivative of a penicillin-resistant high-molecular-mass PBP of class A that is capable of binding penicillin. A chimaeric PBP in which the penicillin-binding (PB) module of PBP1 was fused at its N-terminal end with the non-penicillin-binding (n-PB) module of PBP1* retained pencillin-binding activity similar to that of PBP1, corroborating the finding that the n-PB module of PBP1 is dispensable for its penicillin-binding activity.

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