Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

Dennis Ohman


Pseudomonas aeruginosa secretes several proteases associated with pathogenesis, but the most abundant and active is elastase (M4 metalloendopeptidase). Elastase (lasB), is first synthesized as a preproenzyme, with a signal peptide, an 18-kDa N-terminal propeptide, and a 33-kDa mature domain. The propeptide functions as an intramolecular chaperone that is required for the folding and secretion of elastase, but ultimately is proteolytically removed and degraded. Previous research has identified the conserved residues in the propeptide of elastase as compared to other M4 protease precursors and showed some among them to be important for the production of active elastase. In this project, the ability of the propeptide alone to fold into a defined secondary structure was explored and a molecular model was created. Furthermore, the effects of substitutions on conserved residues in the propeptide of plasmid-encoded lasB pro alleles were assessed by expressing them in a lasB propeptide mutant. The kinetics of elastase activity in culture supernatants was quantitated using a fluorescent substrate, Abz-AGLA-p-Nitro-Benzyl-Amide, to provide an accurate assessment of the effects of mutant propeptides. In vitro refolding studies were also performed to determine the effects of specific substitutions on foldase activity of the propeptide. When wild-type propeptide and mature elastase were denatured as separate proteins in guanidine-HCl buffer and renatured together, restoration of activity of the refolded elastase was measured, which was propeptide-dependent. Several mutant propeptides have now been shown to have defects using this in vitro foldase assay. Additional mutants were near wild-type activity level suggesting their role in recognition by the secretion apparatus. Residue locations were determined on a molecular model of the complex and confirmed the role of the secretion mutants as residues on the exterior. Residues that had diminished ability to refold in the in vitro assay were found to be in the interior parts of the complex, confirming their ability to be critical residues at the interface of the proteins or important in the stability of the propeptide’s intrinsic structure. The goal was to perform a series of comprehensive analyses of the propeptide and its conserved residues in order to determine its role as an intramolecular chaperone.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2011

Available for download on Thursday, May 13, 2021