Background: Acetylated 4-O-(methyl) glucuronoxylan (GX) is the main hemicellulose in deciduous hardwood, and comprises a beta-(1 -> 4)-linked xylopyranosyl (Xylp) backbone substituted by both acetyl groups and alpha-(1 -> 2)-linked 4-O-methylglucopyranosyluronic acid (MeGlcpA). Whereas enzymes that target singly acetylated Xylp or doubly 2,3-O-acetyl-Xylp have been well characterized, those targeting (2-O-MeGlcpA) 3-O-acetyl-Xylp structures in glucuronoxylan have remained elusive.
Results: An unclassified carbohydrate esterase (FjoAcXE) was identified as a protein of unknown function from a polysaccharide utilization locus (PUL) otherwise comprising carbohydrate-active enzyme families known to target xylan. FjoAcXE was shown to efficiently release acetyl groups from internal (2-O-MeGlcpA) 3-O-acetyl-Xylp structures, an activity that has been sought after but lacking in known carbohydrate esterases. FjoAcXE action boosted the activity of alpha-glucuronidases from families GH67 and GH115 by five and nine times, respectively. Moreover, FjoAcXE activity was not only restricted to GX, but also deacetylated (3-O-Araf)2-O-acetyl-Xylp of feruloylated xylooligomers, confirming the broad substrate range of this new carbohydrate esterase.
Conclusion: This study reports the discovery and characterization of the novel carbohydrate esterase, FjoAcXE. In addition to cleaving singly acetylated Xylp, and doubly 2,3-O-acetyl-Xylp, FjoAcXE efficiently cleaves internal 3-O-acetyl-Xylp linkages in (2-O-MeGlcpA)3-O-acetyl-Xylp residues along with densely substituted and branched xylooligomers; activities that until now were missing from the arsenal of enzymes required for xylan conversion.