Validation and stabilization of a prophage lysin of Clostridium perfringens by using yeast surface display and coevolutionary models

Seth C. Ritter, Benjamin J. Hackel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Bacteriophage lysins are compelling antimicrobial proteins whose biotechnological utility and evolvability would be aided by elevated stability. Lysin catalytic domains, which evolved as modular entities distinct from cell wall binding domains, can be classified into one of several families with highly conserved structure and function, many of which contain thousands of annotated homologous sequences. Motivated by the quality of these evolutionary data, the performance of generative protein models incorporating coevolutionary information was analyzed to predict the stability of variants in a collection of 9,749 multimutants across 10 libraries diversified at different regions of a putative lysin from a prophage region of a Clostridium perfringens genome. Protein stability was assessed via a yeast surface display assay with accompanying high-throughput sequencing. Statistical fitness of mutant sequences, derived from second-order Potts models inferred with different levels of sequence homolog information, was predictive of experimental stability with areas under the curve (AUCs) ranging from 0.78 to 0.85. To extract an experimentally derived model of stability, a logistic model with site-wise score contributions was regressed on the collection of multimutants. This achieved a cross-validated classification performance of 0.95. Using this experimentally derived model, 5 designs incorporating 5 or 6 mutations from multiple libraries were constructed. All designs retained enzymatic activity, with 4 of 5 increasing the melting temperature and with the highest-performing design achieving an improvement of +4°C. IMPORTANCE Bacteriophage lysins exhibit high specificity and activity toward host bacteria with which the phage coevolved. These properties of lysins make them attractive for use as antimicrobials. Although there has been significant effort to develop platforms for rapid lysin engineering, there have been numerous shortcomings when pursuing the ultrahigh throughput necessary for the discovery of rare combinations of mutations to improve performance. In addition to validation of a putative lysin and stabilization thereof, the experimental and computational methods presented here offer a new avenue for improving protein stability and are easily scalable to analysis of tens of millions of mutations in single experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00054-19
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01 GM121777). We have submitted a patent application pertaining to some of the engineered lysin molecules in this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Society for Microbiology.


  • Antimicrobial protein
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Coevolutionary model
  • Homolog
  • Lysin


Dive into the research topics of 'Validation and stabilization of a prophage lysin of Clostridium perfringens by using yeast surface display and coevolutionary models'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this