Rapid evolution of beta-glucuronidase specificity by saturation mutagenesis of an active site loop

J Biol Chem. 2004 Jun 18;279(25):26462-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M401447200. Epub 2004 Apr 6.


Protein engineers have widely adopted directed evolution as a design algorithm, but practitioners have not come to a consensus about the best method to evolve protein molecular recognition. We previously used DNA shuffling to direct the evolution of Escherichia coli beta-glucuronidase (GUS) variants with increased beta-galactosidase activity. Epistatic (synergistic) mutations in amino acids 557, 566, and 568, which are part of an active site loop, were identified in that experiment (Matsumura, I., and Ellington, A. D. (2001) J. Mol. Biol. 305, 331-339). Here we show that site saturation mutagenesis of these residues, overexpression of the resulting library in E. coli, and high throughput screening led to the rapid evolution of clones exhibiting increased activity in reactions with p-nitrophenyl-beta-d-xylopyranoside (pNP-xyl). The xylosidase activities of the 14 fittest clones were 30-fold higher on average than that of the wild-type GUS. The 14 corresponding plasmids were pooled, amplified by long PCR, self-ligated with T4 DNA ligase, and transformed into E. coli. Thirteen clones exhibiting an average of 80-fold improvement in xylosidase activity were isolated in a second round of screening. One of the evolved proteins exhibited a approximately 200-fold improvement over the wild type in reactivity (k(cat)/K(m)) with pNP-xyl, with a 290,000-fold inversion of specificity. Sequence analysis of the 13 round 2 isolates suggested that all were products of intermolecular recombination events that occurred during whole plasmid PCR. Further rounds of evolution using DNA shuffling and staggered extension process (StEP) resulted in modest improvement. These results underscore the importance of epistatic interactions and demonstrate that they can be optimized through variations of the facile whole plasmid PCR technique.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA Primers / pharmacology
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Glucuronidase / chemistry*
  • Glucuronidase / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional / methods
  • Mutation
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Xylosidases / metabolism


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA
  • Xylosidases
  • Glucuronidase
  • exo-1,4-beta-D-xylosidase