Directed evolution converts subtilisin E into a functional equivalent of thermitase

Huimin Zhao, Frances H. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We used directed evolution to convert Bacillus subtilis subtilisin E into an enzyme functionally equivalent to its thermophilic homolog thermitase from Thermoactinomyces vulgaris. Five generations of random mutagenesis, recombination and screening created subtilisin E 5-3H5, whose half-life at 83°C (3.5 min) and temperature optimum for activity (T(opt), 76°C) are identical with those of thermitase. The T(opt) of the evolved enzyme is 17°C higher and its halflife at 65°C is > 200 times that of wild-type subtilisin E. In addition, 5-3H5 is more active towards the hydrolysis of succinyl-Ala-Ala-Pro-Phe-p-nitroanilide than wild-type at all temperatures from 10 to 90°C. Thermitase differs from subtilisin E at 157 amino acid positions. However, only eight amino acid substitutions were sufficient to convert subtilisin E into an enzyme equally thermostable. The eight substitutions, which include known stabilizing mutations (N218S, N76D) and also several not previously reported, are distributed over the surface of the enzyme. Only two (N218S, N181D) are found in thermitase. Directed evolution provides a powerful tool to unveil mechanisms of thermal adaptation and is an effective and efficient approach to increasing thermostability without compromising enzyme activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-53
Number of pages7
JournalProtein Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999


  • In vitro evolution
  • StEP recombination
  • Subtilisin E
  • Thermitase
  • Thermostability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry

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