The extracellular serine endopeptidase GluSE (EC 126.96.36.199) is considered to be one of the virulence factors of Staphylococcus epidermidis. The present study investigated maturation processing of native GluSE and that heterologously expressed in Escherichia coli. In addition to the 28-kDa mature protease, small amounts of proenzymes with molecular masses of 32, 30, and 29 kDa were identified in the extracellular and cell wall-associated fractions. We defined the pre (M1-A27)- and pro (K28-S66)-segments, and found that processing at the E32-S33 and D48-I49 bonds was responsible for production of the 30- and 29-kDa intermediates, respectively. The full-length form of C-terminally His-tagged GluSE was purified as three proenzymes equivalent to the native ones. These molecules possessing an entire or a part of the pro-segment were proteolytically latent and converted to a mature 28-kDa form by thermolysin cleavage at the S66-V67 bond. Mutation of the essential amino acid S235 suggested auto-proteolytic production of the 30- and 29-kDa intermediates. Furthermore, an undecapeptide (I56-S66) of the truncated pro-segment not only functions as an inhibitor of the protease but also facilitates thermolysin processing. These findings could offer clues to the molecular mechanism involved in the regulation of proteolytic activity of pathogenic proteases secreted from S. epidermidis.
Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Staphylococcus warneri secrete glutamyl endopeptidases, designated GluV8, GluSE, and GluSW, respectively. The order of their protease activities is GluSE<GluSW<<GluV8. In the present study, we investigated the mechanism that causes these differences. Expression of chimeric proteins between GluV8 and GluSE revealed that the difference is primarily attributed to amino acid residues 170–195, which define the intrinsic protease activity, and additionally to residues 119–169, which affect the proteolytic sensitivity. Among nine substitutions present in residues 170–195 of the three proteases, the substitutions at positions 185, 188, and 189 were responsible for the changes in their activities, and the combination of W185, V188, and P189, which naturally occurs in GluV8, exerts the highest protease activity. W185 and P189 were indispensable for full activity, but V188 could be replaced by hydrophobic amino acids. These three amino acid residues appear to create a substrate-binding pocket together with the catalytic triad and the N-terminal V1, and therefore define the Km values of the proteases. We also describe a method to produce a chimeric form of GluSE and GluV8 that is resistant to proteolysis, and therefore possesses 4-fold higher activity than the wild-type recombinant GluV8.