Lysozyme Structure

Lysozymes, also known as muramidase or N-acetylmuramide glycanhydrolase, are a family of enzymes (EC which damage bacterial cell walls by catalyzing hydrolysis of 1,4-beta-linkages between N-acetylmuramic acid and N-acetyl-D-glucosamine residues in a peptidoglycan and between N-acetyl-D-glucosamine residues in chitodextrins. Lysozyme is abundant in a number of secretions, such as tears, saliva, human milk and mucus. It is also present in cytoplasmic granules of the polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN). Large amounts of lysozyme can be found in egg white. C-type lysozymes are closely related to alpha-lactalbumin in sequence and structure making them part of the same family.


The enzyme functions by attacking peptidoglycans (found in the cell walls of bacteria, especially Gram-positive bacteria) and hydrolyzing the glycosidic bond that connects N-acetylmuramic acid with the fourth carbon atom of N-acetylglucosamine. It does this by binding to the peptidoglycan molecule in the binding site within the prominent cleft between its two domains. This causes the substrate molecule to adopt a strained conformation similar to that of the transition state[citation needed]. According to Phillips-Mechanism, the lysozyme binds to a hexasaccharide. The lysozyme then distorts the 4th sugar in hexasaccharide (the D ring) into a half-chair conformation. In this stressed state the glycosidic bond is easily broken.

The amino acid side chains glutamic acid 35 (Glu35) and aspartate 52 (Asp52) have been found to be critical to the activity of this enzyme. Glu35 acts as a proton donor to the glycosidic bond, cleaving the C-O bond in the substrate, whilst Asp52 acts as a nucleophile to generate a glycosyl enzyme intermediate. The glycosyl enzyme intermediate then reacts with a water molecule, to give the product of hydrolysis and leaving the enzyme unchanged.

Role in disease
Lysozyme is part of the innate immune system. Children fed infant formula lack lysozyme in their diet and have three times the rate of diarrheal disease. Since lysozyme is a natural form of protection from pathogens like Salmonella, E.coli and Pseudomonas, when it is deficient due to infant formula feeding, can lead to increased incidence of disease.

Whereas the skin is a protective barrier due to its dryness and acidity, the conjunctiva (membrane covering the eye) is instead protected by secreted enzymes, mainly lysozyme and defensin. However, when these protective barriers fail, conjunctivitis results.

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