Protein-protein interactions play a vital role in cellular processes as exemplified by assembly of the intricate multi-enzyme cellulosome complex. Cellulosomes are assembled by selective high-affinity binding of enzyme-borne dockerin modules to repeated cohesin modules of structural proteins termed scaffoldins. Recent sequencing of the fiber-degrading Ruminococcus flavefaciens FD-1 genome revealed a particularly elaborate cellulosome system. In total, 223 dockerin-bearing ORFs potentially involved in cellulosome assembly and a variety of multi-modular scaffoldins were identified, and the dockerins were classified into six major groups. Here, extensive screening employing three complementary medium- to high-throughput platforms was used to characterize the different cohesin-dockerin specificities. The platforms included (i) cellulose-coated microarray assay, (ii) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and (iii) in-vivo co-expression and screening in Escherichia coli. The data revealed a collection of unique cohesin-dockerin interactions and support the functional relevance of dockerin classification into groups. In contrast to observations reported previously, a dual-binding mode is involved in cellulosome cell-surface attachment, whereas single-binding interactions operate for cellulosome integration of enzymes. This sui generis cellulosome model enhances our understanding of the mechanisms governing the remarkable ability of R. flavefaciens to degrade carbohydrates in the bovine rumen and provides a basis for constructing efficient nano-machines applied to biological processes.
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