Novel mechanism revealed for increasing recombinant protein yield in tobacco

August 6, 2009

Elastin-like polypeptides (ELPs) cause plants to store GM proteins in special 'protein bodies', insulating them from normal cellular degradation processes and increasing the overall protein yield. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology have visualised the mechanism by which the synthetic biopolymer increases the accumulation of recombinant proteins.

Rima Menassa worked with a team of researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in London, Ontario, to develop and test the ELP tags by targeting an ELP-green fluorescent (GFP) fusion to various organelles in the leaves of the plant. Tobacco is well-suited as a production system for recombinant proteins but the mechanism by which ELP fusions increase production yields in transgenic tobacco leaves was previously unknown. Menassa said, "ELP was shown to almost double the yield of GFP to 11% of total soluble protein when hyperexpressed in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)".

Based on their confocal and analyses, the researchers suggest that ELP fusions targeted to the ER induce the formation of novel mobile protein body-like structures in leaves, which appear similar in size and morphology to the prolamin-based protein bodies naturally found in plant seeds. These bodies may be responsible for ELP's positive effect on recombinant protein accumulation by excluding the heterologous protein from normal physiological turnover.

The researchers targeted their ELP fusions to the cytoplasm, chloroplasts, apoplast and ER in Nicotiana benthamiana tobacco plants. They found that the ER was the only intracellular compartment in which the ELP significantly enhanced recombinant protein accumulation. They conclude, "An ER-targeted ELP fusion approach provides an effective strategy for depositing large amounts of concentrated heterologous protein within the limited space of the cell".

More information: Induction of protein body formation in plant leaves by elastin-like polypeptide fusions; Andrew J Conley, Jussi J Joensuu, Rima Menassa and Jim E Brandle; BMC Biology (in press);

Source: BioMed Central (news : web)

Explore further: Tomorrow’s tobacco to save lives

Related Stories

Tomorrow’s tobacco to save lives

November 14, 2005

In the future, tobacco may be a crop that saves lives. Tobacco is one of those plants that could be used as green factories for high-tech production of drugs. A new discovery shows how production can be made considerably ...

Do plants have the potential to vaccinate against HIV?

March 13, 2006

Scientists have developed a new kind of molecule which they believe could ultimately lead to the development of a vaccine against HIV using genetically modified tobacco. Writing in Plant Biotechnology Journal, Dr Patricia ...

Recommended for you

A common mechanism for human and bird sound production

November 27, 2015

When birds and humans sing it sounds completely different, but now new research reported in the journal Nature Communications shows that the very same physical mechanisms are at play when a bird sings and a human speaks.

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.