Streptomyces lividans displays a distinct dependence on copper to fully initiate morphological development. Evidence has accumulated to implicate the participation of an extracytoplasmic cuproenzyme in morphogenesis. In the present study, we show that GlxA fulfils all criteria to be that cuproenzyme. GlxA is membrane associated and has an active site consisting of a mononuclear copper and a cross-linked Y-C cofactor. The domain organization of the tertiary structure defines GlxA as a new structural member of the mono-copper oxidase family, with copper co-ordination geometry similar to, but spectroscopically distinct from fungal galactose oxidase (Gox). EPR spectroscopy reveals that the oxidation of cupric GlxA generates a protein radical residing on the Y-C cross-link. A variety of canonical Gox substrates (including D-galactose) were tested but none were readily turned over by GlxA. A glxA null-mutant leads to loss of glycan accumulation at hyphal tips and consequently a drastically changed morphology both on solid substrates and in liquid-grown environments, a scenario similarly observed in the absence of the neighbouring glycan synthase CslA (cellulase synthase-like protein). In addition the glxA mutant has lost the stimulation of development by copper, supporting a model whereby the enzymatic action of GlxA on the glycan is required for development and morphology. From a biotechnology perspective, the open mycelium morphology observed with the glxA mutant in submerged culture has implications for use as an enzyme production host.

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