The human gut microbe Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron encodes the founding member of a novel glycosaminoglycan-degrading polysaccharide lyase family PL29

J Biol Chem. 2018 Nov 16;293(46):17906-17916. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.004510. Epub 2018 Sep 27.


Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and GAG-degrading enzymes have wide-ranging applications in the medical and biotechnological industries. The former are also an important nutrient source for select species of the human gut microbiota (HGM), a key player in host-microbial interactions. How GAGs are metabolized by the HGM is therefore of interest and has been extensively investigated in the model human gut microbe Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. The presence of as-yet uncharacterized GAG-inducible genes in its genome and of related species, however, is testament to our incomplete understanding of this process. Nevertheless, it presents a potential opportunity for the discovery of additional GAG-degrading enzymes. Here, we investigated a gene of unknown function (BT_3328) from the chondroitin sulfate (CS) utilization locus of B. thetaiotaomicron NMR and UV spectroscopic assays revealed that it encodes a novel polysaccharide lyase (PL), hereafter referred to as BtCDH, reflecting its source (B. thetaiotaomicron (Bt)) and its ability to degrade the GAGs CS, dermatan sulfate (DS), and hyaluronic acid (HA). When incubated with HA, BtCDH generated a series of unsaturated HA sugars, including Δ4,5UA-GlcNAc, Δ4,5UA-GlcNAc-GlcA-GlcNac, Δ4,5UA-[GlcNAc-GlcA]2-GlcNac, and Δ4,5UA-[GlcNAc-GlcA]3-GlcNac, as end products and hence was classed as endo-acting. A combination of genetic and biochemical assays revealed that BtCDH localizes to the cell surface of B. thetaiotaomicron where it enables extracellular GAG degradation. BtCDH homologs were also detected in several other HGM species, and we therefore propose that it represents the founding member of a new polysaccharide lyase family (PL29). The current discovery also contributes new insights into CS metabolism by the HGM.

Keywords: CAZymes; PL29; bacterial metabolism; carbohydrate metabolism; cell surface enzyme; chondroitin sulfate; glycosaminoglycan degradation; human gut microbiota; hyaluronan; hyaluronate lyase; polysaccharide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron / enzymology*
  • Chondroitin Sulfates / metabolism*
  • Dermatan Sulfate / metabolism*
  • Hyaluronic Acid / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Metals, Heavy / chemistry
  • Polysaccharide-Lyases / chemistry
  • Polysaccharide-Lyases / metabolism*
  • Temperature


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Dermatan Sulfate
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Chondroitin Sulfates
  • Polysaccharide-Lyases