C-terminal domains of Listeria monocytogenes bacteriophage murein hydrolases determine specific recognition and high-affinity binding to bacterial cell wall carbohydrates

Mol Microbiol. 2002 Apr;44(2):335-49. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2002.02889.x.


Listeria monocytogenes phage endolysins Ply118 and Ply500 share a unique enzymatic activity and specifically hydrolyse Listeria cells at the completion of virus multiplication in order to release progeny phage. With the aim of determining the molecular basis for the lytic specificity of these enzymes, we have elucidated their domain structure and examined the function of their unrelated and unique C-terminal cell wall binding domains (CBDs). Analysis of deletion mutants showed that both domains are needed for lytic activity. Fusions of CBDs with green fluorescent protein (GFP) demonstrated that the C-terminal 140 amino acids of Ply500 and the C-terminal 182 residues of Ply118 are necessary and sufficient to direct the murein hydrolases to the bacterial cell wall. CBD500 was able to target GFP to the surface of Listeria cells belonging to serovar groups 4, 5 and 6, resulting in an even staining of the entire cell surface. In contrast, the CBD118 hybrid bound to a ligand predominantly present at septal regions and cell poles, but only on cells of serovars 1/2, 3 and 7. Non-covalent binding to surface carbohydrate ligands occurred in a rapid, saturation-dependent manner. We measured 4 x 104 and 8 x 104 binding sites for CBD118 and CBD500 respectively. Surface plasmon resonance analysis revealed unexpected high molecular affinity constants for the CBD-ligand interactions, corresponding to nanomolar affinities. In conclusion, we show that the CBDs are responsible for targeting the phage endolysins to their substrates and function to confer recognition specificity on the proteins. As the CBD sequences contain no repeats and lack all known sequence motifs for anchoring of proteins to the bacterial cell, we conclude that they use unique structural motifs for specific association with the surface of Gram-positive bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriophages / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • DNA Primers
  • Kinetics
  • Listeria / virology
  • Listeria monocytogenes / virology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase / genetics
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase / metabolism*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / isolation & purification
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Species Specificity
  • Substrate Specificity


  • DNA Primers
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • N-Acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine Amidase