An endoglucanase (1,4-beta-D-glucan glucanohydrolase, EC 126.96.36.199) from the thermophilic anaerobe Clostridium thermocellum was purified to apparent homogeneity without the use of denaturants. No carbohydrate is associated with the endoglucanase. A molecular mass of 76,000 Da was determined by SDS/PAGE. The optimal pH is 7.0 and the enzyme is isoelectric at pH 5.05. The enzyme has a temperature optimum of 70 degrees C and retains approx. 50% of its activity after 48 h at 60 degrees C. Hydrolysis of CM-cellulose takes place with a rapid decrease in viscosity but a slow liberation of reducing sugars, indicating an endoglucanase type of activity. The endoglucanase shows little ability to hydrolyse highly ordered cellulose. Cellobiose inhibits whereas Mg2+ and Ca2+ stimulate the activity. The enzyme is completely inactivated by 1 mM-Hg2+ and is inhibited by a thiol-blocking reagent.
The extracellular cellulolytic enzymes of the thermophilic anaerobe Clostridium thermocellum occur as a protein complex or aggregate known as the cellulosome. By using a combination of ion-exchange, adsorption and hydrophobic-interaction chromatography, it was possible to isolate from extracellular broth a specific endoglucanase of interest without the use of denaturants. The endoglucanase was identified as the cellulosomal subunit Ss by the use of specific antibodies. The enzyme has an Mr of 83,000, an isoelectric point of 3.55, optimum pH of 6.6 and optimum temperature of 70 degrees C. It hydrolyses CM-cellulose and, at a higher rate, the cellodextrins, cellotetraose and cellopentaose, but does not hydrolyse a crystalline cellulose such as Avicel. Cellobiose and cellotriose are also immune to attack. It differs from endoglucanases previously isolated by others and a 76,000-Mr endoglucanase recently isolated in this laboratory.