β-1,4-Mannanases (mannanases), which hydrolyse mannans and glucomannans, are located in glycoside hydrolase families (GHs) 5 and 26. To investigate whether there are fundamental differences in the molecular architecture and biochemical properties of GH5 and GH26 mannanases, four genes encoding these enzymes were isolated from Cellvibrio japonicus and the encoded glycoside hydrolases were characterized. The four genes, man5A, man5B, man5C and man26B, encode the mannanases Man5A, Man5B, Man5C and Man26B, respectively. Man26B consists of an N-terminal signal peptide linked via an extended serine-rich region to a GH26 catalytic domain. Man5A, Man5B and Man5C contain GH5 catalytic domains and non-catalytic carbohydrate-binding modules (CBMs) belonging to families 2a, 5 and 10; Man5C in addition contains a module defined as X4 of unknown function. The family 10 and 2a CBMs bound to crystalline cellulose and ivory nut crystalline mannan, displaying very similar properties to the corresponding family 10 and 2a CBMs from Cellvibrio cellulases and xylanases. CBM5 bound weakly to these crystalline polysaccharides. The catalytic domains of Man5A, Man5B and Man26B hydrolysed galactomannan and glucomannan, but displayed no activity against crystalline mannan or cellulosic substrates. Although Man5C was less active against glucomannan and galactomannan than the other mannanases, it did attack crystalline ivory nut mannan. All the enzymes exhibited classic endo-activity producing a mixture of oligosaccharides during the initial phase of the reaction, although their mode of action against manno-oligosaccharides and glucomannan indicated differences in the topology of the respective substrate-binding sites. This report points to a different role for GH5 and GH26 mannanases from C. japonicus. We propose that as the GH5 enzymes contain CBMs that bind crystalline polysaccharides, these enzymes are likely to target mannans that are integral to the plant cell wall, while GH26 mannanases, which lack CBMs and rapidly release mannose from polysaccharides and oligosaccharides, target the storage polysaccharide galactomannan and manno-oligosaccharides.

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