Shifting the pH Profile of Aspergillus Niger PhyA Phytase to Match the Stomach pH Enhances Its Effectiveness as an Animal Feed Additive

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Jun;72(6):4397-403. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02612-05.


Environmental pollution by phosphorus from animal waste is a major problem in agriculture because simple-stomached animals, such as swine, poultry, and fish, cannot digest phosphorus (as phytate) present in plant feeds. To alleviate this problem, a phytase from Aspergillus niger PhyA is widely used as a feed additive to hydrolyze phytate-phosphorus. However, it has the lowest relative activity at the pH of the stomach (3.5), where the hydrolysis occurs. Our objective was to shift the pH optima of PhyA to match the stomach condition by substituting amino acids in the substrate-binding site with different charges and polarities. Based on the crystal structure of PhyA, we prepared 21 single or multiple mutants at Q50, K91, K94, E228, D262, K300, and K301 and expressed them in Pichia pastoris yeast. The wild-type (WT) PhyA showed the unique bihump, two-pH-optima profile, whereas 17 mutants lost one pH optimum or shifted the pH optimum from pH 5.5 to the more acidic side. The mutant E228K exhibited the best overall changes, with a shift of pH optimum to 3.8 and 266% greater (P < 0.05) hydrolysis of soy phytate at pH 3.5 than the WT enzyme. The improved efficacy of the enzyme was confirmed in an animal feed trial and was characterized by biochemical analysis of the purified mutant enzymes. In conclusion, it is feasible to improve the function of PhyA phytase under stomach pH conditions by rational protein engineering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 6-Phytase / chemistry
  • 6-Phytase / genetics*
  • 6-Phytase / metabolism*
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animal Feed*
  • Aspergillus niger / enzymology*
  • Binding Sites
  • Environmental Pollution
  • Food Additives*
  • Fungal Proteins / chemistry
  • Fungal Proteins / genetics
  • Fungal Proteins / metabolism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration*
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Protein Conformation
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism


  • Food Additives
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • 6-Phytase