Directed evolution of phosphotriesterase for detoxification of the nerve agent VX
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Phosphotriesterase (PTE) isolated from the soil bacterium Flavobacterium sp. is a member of the amidohydrolase superfamily. PTE catalyzes the hydrolysis of a broad spectrum of organophosphate triesters including the insecticide paraoxon, and the chemical warfare agents; GF, sarin, and soman. In addition, PTE has been shown to catalytically hydrolyze the lethal nerve agent, VX. However, the rate of VX hydrolysis is significantly slower. PTE was subjected to directed evolution studies to identify variants with enhanced activity towards VX hydrolysis. First generation libraries targeted amino acid residues in the substrate binding site. The H254A mutation displayed a 4-fold enhancement in kcat and a 2-fold enhancement in kcat/Km over wild type PTE. The double mutant H254Q/H257F was isolated from the second generation libraries and displayed a 10-fold enhancement in kcat and a 3-fold enhancement in kcat/Km. In addition, H254Q/H257F displayed a 9-fold enhancement in kcat/Km for the hydrolysis of the VX analog, demeton-S. An in vivo selection approach utilizing organophosphate triesters as the sole phosphorus source is discussed. The selection is based on co-expressing PTE with the phosphodiesterase (GpdQ) from E. aerogenes. Substrate specificity of GpdQ was investigated using a small library of structurally diverse organophosphate diesters and phosphonate monoesters. Results obtained from the in vivo growth assays showed that GpdQ enabled E. coli to utilize various organophosphate diesters and phosphonate monoesters as the sole phosphorus source. Cells co-expressing PTE and GpdQ were tested for their ability to utilize two different organophosphate triesters as the sole phosphorus source. The results from this experiment indicate that the growth rate is limited by the phosphotriesterase activity. Protein translocation to the periplasm was proven advantageous for in vivo selection since it overcomes the limitation of intercellular delivery of the substrate of interest. Translocation of PTE to the periplasmic space of E. coli was examined. Two signal peptides were tested; the native leader peptide from Flavobacterium sp. and the signal sequence of alkaline phosphatase. The results obtained from cellular fractionation indicated that neither signal peptides were able to translocate PTE to the periplasm and that the protein remained in the cytoplasm.
Ghanem, Eman Mohamed (2006). Directed evolution of phosphotriesterase for detoxification of the nerve agent VX. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from