A substitution at His-120 in the LasA protease of Pseudomonas aeruginosa blocks enzymatic activity without affecting propeptide processing or extracellular secretion

Jean K. Gustin, Efrat Kessler, Dennis E. Ohman

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44 Scopus citations


The LasA protease of Pseudomonas aeruginosa can degrade elastin and is an important contributor to the pathogenesis of this organism. LasA (20 kDa) is a member of the beta-lytic endopeptidase family of extracellular bacterial proteases, and it shows high-level staphylolytic activity. We sequenced the lasA gene from strain FRD1 and overexpressed it in Escherichia coli. The lasA gene encodes a precursor, known as pre-proLasA, of 45,582 Da. Amino-terminal sequence analysis allowed the identification of the signal peptidase cleavage site and revealed thai the 31-amino-acid signal peptide was removed in E. coli. The remaining proLasA (42 kDa) did not undergo autoproteolytic processing and showed little staphylolytic activity. However, it was readily processed to a 20-kDa active staphylolytic protease by incubation with trypsin or with the culture filtrate of a P. aeruginosa lasAΔ mutant. Thus, removal of the propeptide (22 kDa) was required to convert proLasA into an active protease. Although LasA protease was critical for staphylolytic activity, other proteases like elastase were found to enhance staphylolysis. Under the control of an inducible trc promoter, lasA was overexpressed in P. aeruginosa and the processing intermediates were examined. Compared with wild-type cells, the overproducing cells accumulated more 42-kDa proLasA species, and the culture supernatants of the overproducing cells showed increased levels of active 20-kDa LasA protease. Small amounts of a 25-kDa extracellular LasA-related protein, which could represent a potential processing intermediate, were also observed. To better understand the structure-function relationships in LasA protease, we tested whether His- 120-X-His-122 in the mature portion of LasA plays a role in activity. This motif and surrounding sequences are conserved in the related beta-lytic protease of Achromobacter lyticus. Oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis was used to change His-120 to Ala-120, thus forming the lasA5 allele. The product of lasA5 expressed from the chromosome of P. aeruginosa was processed to a stable, secreted 20-kDa protein (designated LasA-H120A) which was devoid of staphylolytic activity. This suggests that His-120 is essential for LasA activity and favors the possibility that proLasA processing and secretion in P. aeruginosa can proceed via mechanisms which do not involve autoproteolysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6608-6617
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number22
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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