Biochemical Journal

Research article

Expression in Escherichia coli, purification and characterization of heparinase I from Flavobacterium heparinum

Steffen ERNST, Ganesh VENKATARAMAN, Stefan WINKLER, Ranga GODAVARTI, Robert LANGER, Charles L. COONEY, SASISEKHARAN SASISEKHARAN

Abstract

The use of heparin for extracorporeal therapies has been problematical due to haemorrhagic complications; as a consequence, heparinase I from Flavobacterium heparinum is used for the determination of plasma heparin and for elimination of heparin from circulation. Here we report the expression of recombinant heparinase I in Escherichia coli, purification to homogeneity and characterization of the purified enzyme. Heparinase I was expressed with an N-terminal histidine tag. The enzyme was insoluble and inactive, but could be refolded, and was purified to homogeneity by nickel-chelate chromatography. The cumulative yield was 43%, and the recovery of purified heparinase I was 14.4 mg/l of culture. The N-terminal sequence and the molecular mass as analysed by matrix-assisted laser desorption MS were consistent with predictions from the heparinase I gene structure. The reverse-phase HPLC profile of the tryptic digest, the Michaelis–Menten constant Km (47 μg/ml) and the specific activity (117 units/mg) of purified recombinant heparinase I were similar to those of the native enzyme. Degradation of heparin by heparinase I results in a characteristic product distribution, which is different from those obtained by degradation with heparinase II or III from F. heparinum. We developed a rapid anion-exchange HPLC method to separate the products of enzymic heparin degradation, using POROS perfusion chromatography media. Separation of characteristic di-, tetra- and hexa-saccharide products is performed in 10 min. These methods for the expression, purification and analysis of recombinant heparinase I may facilitate further development of heparinase I-based medical therapies as well as further investigation of the structures of heparin and heparan sulphate and their role in the extracellular matrix.