Biochemical Journal

Research article

Peptidase activity of β-lactamases

Noureddine RHAZI, Moreno GALLENI, Michael I. PAGE, Jean-Marie FRÈRE


Although β-lactamases have generally been considered as being devoid of peptidase activity, a low but significant hydrolysis of various N-acylated dipeptides was observed with representatives of each class of β-lactamases. The kcat/Km values were below 0.1 M-1˙s-1, but the enzyme rate enhancement factors were in the range 5000-20000 for the best substrates. Not unexpectedly, the best ‘peptidase’ was the class C β-lactamase of Enterobacter cloacae P99, but, more surprisingly, the activity was always higher with the phenylacetyl- and benzoyl-D-Ala-D-Ala dipeptides than with the diacetyl- and α-acetyl-L-Lys-D-Ala-D-Ala tripeptides, which are the preferred substrates of the low-molecular-mass, soluble DD-peptidases. A comparison between the β-lactamases and DD-peptidases showed that it might be as difficult for a DD-peptidase to open the β-lactam ring as it is for the β-lactamases to hydrolyse the peptides, an observation which can be explained by geometric and stereoelectronic considerations.

  • catalytic mechanism
  • kinetics
  • DD-peptidases