A novel levansucrase was identified in the supernatant of a cell culture of Bacillus megaterium DSM319. In order to test for the contribution of specific amino acid residues to levansucrase catalysis, the wild-type enzyme along with 16 variants based on sequence alignments and structural information were heterologously produced in Escherichia coli. The purified enzymes were characterized kinetically and the product spectrum of each variant was determined. Comparison of the X-ray structures of the levansucrases from Gram-positive Bacillus subtilis and Gram-negative Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus in conjunction with the corresponding product spectra identified crucial amino acid residues responsible for product specificity and catalysis. Highly conserved regions such as the previously described RDP and DXXER motifs were identified as being important. Two crucial structural differences localized at amino acid residues Arg370 and Asn252 were of high relevance in polymer compared with oligosaccharide synthesis.

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