Investigating the effect of fusion partners on the enzymatic activity and thermodynamic stability of poly(ethylene terephthalate) degrading enzymes

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Plastics are a cornerstone of the modern world, yet the durable material properties that we have come to depend upon have made them recalcitrant environmental pollutants. Biological solutions in the form of engineered enzymes offer low energy and sustainable approaches to recycle and upcycle plastic waste, uncoupling their production and end of life from fossil fuels and greenhouse gases. These enzymes however, encounter immense challenges acting on plastics: facing hydrophobic surfaces, molecular crowding, and high levels of substrate heterogeneity. There have been mixed reports about the benefits of fusing partner domains to polyethylene terephthalate (PET) degrading enzymes, with moderate improvements identified under specific conditions, but no clarity into the factors that underlie the mechanisms. Here, we use the SpyCatcher003:SpyTag003 technology, which demonstrates a profound 47 °C shift in Tm upon irreversible complex formation, to investigate the influence of the thermal stability of the fusion partner on a range of PETases selected for their optimal reaction temperatures. We find that the thermal stability of the fusion partner does not have a positive correlation on the activity of the enzymes or their evident kinetic and thermal stabilities. Instead, it appears that the fusion to less stable SpyCatcher003 tends to increase the measured activation energy of unfolding compared to the more stable complex and wildtype enzymes. Despite this, the fusions to SpyCatcher003 do not show significantly better catalytic activity on PET films, with or without SpyTag003, and were found to be sometimes disruptive. The approach we highlight here, in using a fusion partner with controllable melting temperature, allowed us to dissect the impact of the stability of a fusion partner on enzyme properties. Although fusion stability did not appear to be coupled with identifiable trends in enzymatic activities, careful analysis of the unfolding pathways, and solid and solution activities of a wider range of enzymes may yield a more detailed understanding.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFaraday Discussions
Early online date17 May 2024
Publication statusEarly online - 17 May 2024


  • UKRI
  • BB/Y007972/1

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