Molecular Modeling and Biopharmaceutical Center and Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Kentucky, 789 South Limestone Street, Lexington, KY, 40536, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Human butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) is a widely distributed plasma enzyme. For decades, numerous research efforts have been directed at engineering BChE as a bioscavenger of organophosphorus insecticides and chemical warfare nerve agents. However, it has been a grand challenge to cost-efficiently produce BChE in large-scale. Recently reported studies have successfully designed a truncated BChE mutant (with amino-acid substitutions on 47 residues that are far away from the catalytic site), denoted as BChE-M47 for convenience, which can be expressed in E. coli without loss of its catalytic activity. In this study, we aimed to dimerize the truncated BChE mutant protein expressed in a prokaryotic system (E. coli) in order to further improve its thermal stability by introducing a pair of cross-subunit disulfide bonds to the BChE-M47 structure. Specifically, the E377C/A516C mutations were designed and introduced to BChE-M47, and the obtained new protein entity, denoted as BChE-M48, with a pair of cross-subunit disulfide bonds indeed exists as a dimer with significantly improved thermostability and unaltered catalytic activity and reactivity compared to BChE-M47. These results provide a new strategy for optimizing protein stability for production in a cost-efficient prokaryotic system. Our enzyme, BChE-M48, has a half-life of almost one week at a 37°C, suggesting that it could be utilized as a highly stable bioscavenger of OP insecticides and chemical warfare nerve agents.