Characterization of the autolytic systems in selected streptococcal species.
Autolysins are endogenous enzymes responsible for the cleavage of specific bonds in the bacterial sacculus resulting in damage to the integrity and protective properties of the cell wall. The true biological functions of these enzymes are largely unknown. However, they have been implicated in various important biological synthesis processes making their characterization important. Antibiotic susceptibility testing showed these streptococcal strains to have broad spectrum inhibitory concentrations. The major autolysins of selected streptococcal strains were detected and partially characterized by renaturing sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis with substrate-containing gels (zymograms). The autolysins were isolated from the specific culture supematants using 4% SDS precipitation and were shown to have apparent molecular masses ranging from 60kDa to 20kDa. Four major autolysins named A, B, C, and D from the Streptococcus milleri 77 strain were characterized. Lytic enzymes were blotted onto polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) membrane and N-terminally sequenced. Sequences showed between 100% and 80% similarity to that of a muramidase, glucosaminidase and a peptidase from S. mutans, S. pyogenes and S. pneumonia respectively. Biochemical characterization confirmed autolysin A to exhibit muramidase activity with both autolysin Band C exhibiting endopeptidase activity. Autolysin D showed an 80% N-terminal sequence similarity to Millericin B, a peptidoglycan hydrolase that is known to exhibit peptidase activity. Autolysis was determined using different buffers at two optimal pHs. Assaying for autolytic activity at different growth stages showed autolysis to be moderate during the lag and early exponential phases of the growth cycle. The activities of autolysins were the highest in the late exponential phase and the stationary phase of growth. Zymogram analysis showed that the Streptococcal milleri strains had moderate autolytic expression during the early and late exponential phases of the growth cycle. Control regulatory mechanisms of autolysins were determined in the presence or absence of specific charged groups, such as teichoic acids. In each case the absence of these charged groups inhibited the rate of autolysis, suggesting that the absence of teichoic acids could play a role in the regulation of the autolysins. Two-dimensional-SDS and zymographic-electrophoresis was used to determine total protein profiles for each strain. This is the first report using twodimensional zymography. Specific proteins which were either up- or down-regulated were identified.