Amidase activity of AmiC controls cell separation and stem peptide release and is enhanced by NlpD in Neisseria gonorrhoeae

Jonathan D. Lenz, Elizabeth A. Stohl, Rosanna M. Robertson, Kathleen T. Hackett, Kathryn Fisher, Kalia Xiong, Mijoon Lee, Dusan Hesek, Shahriar Mobashery, H. Steven Seifert, Christopher Davies, Joseph P. Dillard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The human-restricted pathogen Neisseria gonorrhoeae encodes a single N-acetylmuramyl-L-alanine amidase involved in cell separation (AmiC), as compared with three largely redundant cell separation amidases found in Escherichia coli (AmiA, AmiB, and AmiC). Deletion of amiC from N. gonorrhoeae results in severely impaired cell separation and altered peptidoglycan (PG) fragment release, but little else is known about how AmiC functions in gonococci. Here, we demonstrated that gonococcal AmiC can act on macromolecular PG to liberate cross-linked and non-cross-linked peptides indicative of amidase activity, and we provided the first evidence that a cell separation amidase can utilize a small synthetic PG fragment as substrate (GlcNAc-MurNAc(pentapeptide)-GlcNAc-MurNAc (pentapeptide)). An investigation of two residues in the active site of AmiC revealed that Glu-229 is critical for both normal cell separation and the release of PG fragments by gonococci during growth. In contrast, Gln-316 has an autoinhibitory role, and its mutation to lysine resulted in an AmiC with increased enzymatic activity on macromolecular PG and on the synthetic PG derivative. Curiously, the same Q316K mutation that increased AmiC activity also resulted in cell separation and PG fragment release defects, indicating that activation state is not the only factor determining normal AmiC activity. In addition to displaying high basal activity on PG, gonococcal AmiC can utilize metal ions other than the zinc cofactor typically used by cell separation amidases, potentially protecting its ability to function in zinc-limiting environments. Thus gonococcal AmiC has distinct differences from related enzymes, and these studies revealed parameters for how AmiC functions in cell separation and PG fragment release.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10916-10933
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 13 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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