Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The microbial degradation of the plant cell wall is of increasing industrial significance, exemplified by the interest in generating biofuels from plant cell walls. The majority of plant cell-wall polysaccharides are acetylated, and removal of the acetyl groups through the action of carbohydrate esterases greatly increases the efficiency of polysaccharide saccharification. Enzymes in carbohydrate esterase family 3 (CE3) are common in plant cell wall-degrading microorganisms but there is a paucity of structural and biochemical information on these biocatalysts. Clostridium thermocellum contains a single CE3 enzyme, CtCes3, which comprises two highly homologous (97% sequence identity) catalytic modules appended to a C-terminal type I dockerin that targets the esterase into the cellulosome, a large protein complex that catalyses plant cell wall degradation. Here, we report the crystal structure and biochemical properties of the N-terminal catalytic module (CtCes3-1) of CtCes3. The enzyme is a thermostable acetyl-specific esterase that exhibits a strong preference for acetylated xylan. CtCes3-1 displays an α/β hydrolase fold that contains a central five-stranded parallel twisted β-sheet flanked by six α-helices. In addition, the enzyme contains a canonical catalytic triad in which Ser44 is the nucleophile, His208 is the acid-base and Asp205 modulates the basic nature of the histidine. The acetate moiety is accommodated in a hydrophobic pocket and the negative charge of the tetrahedral transition state is stabilized through hydrogen bonds with the backbone N of Ser44 and Gly95 and the side-chain amide of Asn124. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Molecular Biology

Publication Date





64 - 72