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Reassessment of inclusion body-based production as a versatile opportunity for difficult-to-express recombinant proteins

: Hoffmann, D.; Ebrahimi, M.; Gerlach, D.; Salzig, D.; Czermak, P.


Critical reviews in biotechnology 38 (2017), Nr.5, S.729-744
ISSN: 1549-7801
ISSN: 0738-8551
Fraunhofer IME ()

The production of recombinant proteins in the microbial host Escherichia coli often results in the formation of cytoplasmic protein inclusion bodies (IBs). Proteins forming IBs are often branded as difficult-to-express, neglecting that IBs can be an opportunity for their production. IBs are resistant to proteolytic degradation and contain up to 90% pure recombinant protein, which does not interfere with the host metabolism. This is especially advantageous for host-toxic proteins like antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). IBs can be easily isolated by cell disruption followed by filtration and/or centrifugation, but conventional techniques for the recovery of soluble proteins from IBs are laborious. New approaches therefore simplify protein recovery by optimizing the production process conditions, and often include mild resolubilization methods that either increase the yield after refolding or avoid the necessity of refolding all together. For the AMP production, the IB-based approach is ideal, because these peptides often have simple structures and are easy to refold. The intentional IB production of almost every protein can be achieved by fusing recombinant proteins to pull-down tags. This review discusses the techniques available for IB-based protein production before considering technical approaches for the isolation of IBs from E. coli lysates followed by efficient protein resolubilization which ideally omits further refolding. The techniques are evaluated in terms of their suitability for the process-scale production and downstream processing of recombinant proteins and are discussed for AMP production as an example.