N-acetyl neuraminate lyases (NALs) catalyze the reversible aldol cleavage of N-acetyl neuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) to pyruvate and N-acetyl-D-mannosamine (ManNAc). Previous phylogenetic studies divided NALs into four different groups. Groups 1 and 2 have been well characterized at both kinetic and molecular levels, but no NAL from group 3 has been studied to date. In this work, a functional characterization of two group 3 members was performed using the recombinant NALs from Lactobacillus antri and Lactobacillus sakei 23K, revealing an optimal pH of between 6.0 and 7.0, low stability at basic pHs (>8.0), low optimal temperatures and, especially, low catalytic efficiency compared with their counterparts in group 1 and 2. The mutational analysis carried out showed that a plausible molecular reason for the low activity shown by Lactobacillus antri and Lactobacillus sakei 23k NALs compared with group 1 and 2 NALs could be the relatively small sugar-binding pocket they contain. A functional divergence analysis concluding that group 3 is more closely related to group 2 than to group 1.
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