The genomes of Lactobacillus casei/paracasei and Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains carry two genes encoding homologues of p40 and p75 from L. rhamnosus GG, two secreted proteins which display anti-apoptotic and cell protective effects on human intestinal epithelial cells. p40 and p75 carry cysteine, histidine-dependent aminohydrolase/peptidase (CHAP) and NLPC/P60 domains, respectively, which are characteristic of proteins with cell-wall hydrolase activity. In L. casei BL23 both proteins were secreted to the growth medium and were also located at the bacterial cell surface. The genes coding for both proteins were inactivated in this strain. Inactivation of LCABL_00230 (encoding p40) did not result in a significant difference in phenotype, whereas a mutation in LCABL_02770 (encoding p75) produced cells that formed very long chains. Purified glutathione-S-transferase (GST)-p40 and -p75 fusion proteins were able to hydrolyze the muropeptides from L. casei cell walls. Both fusions bound to mucin, collagen and to intestinal epithelial cells and, similar to L. rhamnosus GG p40, stimulated epidermal growth factor receptor phosphorylation in mouse intestine ex vivo. These results indicate that extracellular proteins belonging to the machinery of cell-wall metabolism in the closely related L. casei/paracasei-L. rhamnosus group are most likely involved in the probiotic effects described for these bacteria.
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