Filamentous fungi secrete a wide range of enzymes, including cellulases and hemicellulases, with potential applications in the production of lignocellulosic biofuels. Of the cellulolytic fungi, Hypocrea jecorina (anamorph Trichoderma reesei) is the best characterized in terms of cellulose degradation, but other cellulolytic fungi, such as the model filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa, can serve a crucial role in building our knowledge about the fungal response to biomass due to the many molecular and genetic tools available for this organism. Here we cloned and expressed GH5-1 (NCU00762), a secreted endoglucanase in N. crassa. The protein was produced using a ccg-1 promoter under conditions in which no other cellulases are present. Native GH5-1 (nGH5-1) and this recombinant GH5-1 (rGH5-1) were purified to gauge differences in glycosylation and activity; both rGH5-1 and nGH5-1 were similarly glycosylated, with an estimated molecular weight of 52 kDa. On azo-carboxymethylcellulose, rGH5-1 activity was equal to that of nGH5-1, and on cellulose (Avicel) rGH5-1 was 20% more active. The activity of a GH5-1-GFP fusion protein (rGH5-1-GFP-6xHis) was similar to rGH5-1 and nGH5-1. To determine the binding pattern of catalytically active rGH5-1-GFP-6xHis to plant cell walls, Arabidopsis seedlings were incubated with rGH5-1-GFP-6xHis or Pontamine Fast Scarlet 4B (S4B), a cellulose-specific dye. Confocal microscopy showed that rGH5-1-GFP-6xHis bound in linear, longitudinal patterns on seedling roots, similar to S4B. The functional expression and characterization of rGH5-1 and its GFP fusion derivative set important precedents for further investigation of biomass degradation by filamentous fungi, especially N. crassa, with applications for characterization and manipulation of novel enzymes.
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