A number of strains capable of synthesizing the bacterial exopolysaccharide gellan and related polymers were shown to possess constitutive gellanase activity. In each case, the degradation of deacylated gellan was due to extracellular, eliminase-type enzymes (lyases) which cleave the sequence …ß-D-glucosyl 1,4-ß-D-glucuronosyl… in the tetrasaccharide repeat unit of the substrate polysaccharides. Deacetylated rhamsan was an alternative substrate but there was little or no action against most other polysaccharides with similar structures. Slight differences were found between the specificities of the lyases from different strains. Activities of gellan lyase preparations were generally low. As well as the extracellular ‘gellanase’ activity, all the bacteria possessed varying amounts of ß-D-glucosidase and ß-D-glucuronidase activities apparently located in the periplasm. The products from deacylated gellan and the chemically deacylated form of polysaccharide S194 (rhamsan gum), which is effectively a gentiobiosylated form of gellan, closely resembled those recently obtained by the authors from other, gellandegrading, non-gellan-producing bacteria. The enzymes had negligible activity against the natural, acylated gellan and rhamsan polysaccharides from bacteria now designated as strains of .


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