Type I pullulanases are enzymes that specifically hydrolyse α-1,6 linkages in polysaccharides. This study reports the analyses of a novel type I pullulanase (PulASK) from Anoxybacillus sp. SK3-4. Purified PulASK (molecular mass of 80 kDa) was stable at pH 5.0-6.0 and was most active at pH 6.0. The optimum temperature for PulASK was 60 °C, and the enzyme was reasonably stable at this temperature. Pullulan was the preferred substrate for PulASK, with 89.90 % adsorbance efficiency (various other starches, 56.26-72.93 % efficiency). Similar to other type I pullulanases, maltotriose was formed on digestion of pullulan by PulASK. PulASK also reacted with β-limit dextrin, a sugar rich in short branches, and formed maltotriose, maltotetraose and maltopentaose. Nevertheless, PulASK was found to preferably debranch long branches at α-1,6 glycosidic bonds of starch, producing amylose, linear or branched oligosaccharides, but was nonreactive against short branches; thus, no reducing sugars were detected. This is surprising as all currently known type I pullulanases produce reducing sugars (predominantly maltotriose) on digesting starch. The closest homologue of PulASK (95 % identity) is a type I pullulanase from Anoxybacillus sp. LM14-2 (Pul-LM14-2), which is capable of forming reducing sugars from starch. With rational design, amino acids 362-370 of PulASK were replaced with the corresponding sequence of Pul-LM14-2. The mutant enzyme formed reducing sugars on digesting starch. Thus, we identified a novel motif involved in substrate specificity in type I pullulanases. Our characterization may pave the way for the industrial application of this unique enzyme.
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