Functional insights into the role of novel type I cohesin and dockerin domains from Clostridium thermocellum

Benedita A. Pinheiro, Harry J. Gilbert, Kazutaka Sakka, Kazuo Sakka, Vånia O. Fernandes, José A.M. Prates, Victor D. Alves, David N. Bolam, Luís M.A. Ferreira, Carlos M.G.A. Fontes

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Cellulosomes, synthesized by anaerobic microorganisms such as Clostridium thermocellum, are remarkably complex nanomachines that efficiently degrade plant cell wall polysaccharides. Cellulosome assembly results from the interaction of type I dockerin domains, present on the catalytic subunits, and the cohesin domains of a large non-catalytic integrating protein that acts as a molecular scaffold. In general, type I dockerins contain two distinct cohesin-binding interfaces that appear to display identical ligand specificities. Inspection of the C. thermocellum genome reveals 72 dockerin-containing proteins. In four of these proteins, Cthe_0258, Cthe_0435, Cthe_0624 and Cthe_0918, there are significant differences in the residues that comprise the two cohesin-binding sites of the type I dockerin domains. In addition, a protein of unknown function (Cthe_0452), containing a C-terminal cohesin highly similar to the equivalent domains present in C. thermocellum-integrating protein (CipA), was also identified. In the present study, the ligand specificities of the newly identified cohesin and dockerin domains are described. The results revealed that Cthe_0452 is located at the C. thermocellum cell surface and thus the protein was renamed as OlpC. The dockerins of Cthe_0258 and Cthe_0435 recognize, preferentially, the OlpC cohesin and thus these enzymes are believed to be predominantly located at the surface of the bacterium. By contrast, the dockerin domains of Cthe_0624 and Cthe_0918 are primarily cellulosomal since they bind preferentially to the cohesins of CipA. OlpC, which is a relatively abundant protein, may also adopt a 'warehouse' function by transiently retaining cellulosomal enzymes at the cell surface before they are assembled on to the multienzyme complex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-384
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2009


  • Cell-surface attachment
  • Cellulosome
  • Cohesin
  • Dockerin
  • Molecular scaffoldin
  • Protein-protein interaction


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