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Plant Biotechnol J. 2014 Sep;12(7):832-9. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12184. Epub 2014 Mar 11.

Oligomerization status influences subcellular deposition and glycosylation of recombinant butyrylcholinesterase in Nicotiana benthamiana.

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  • 1Department of Applied Genetics and Cell Biology, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria.


Plants have a proven track record for the expression of biopharmaceutically interesting proteins. Importantly, plants and mammals share a highly conserved secretory pathway that allows similar folding, assembly and posttranslational modifications of proteins. Human butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) is a highly sialylated, tetrameric serum protein, investigated as a bioscavenger for organophosphorous nerve agents. Expression of recombinant BChE (rBChE) in Nicotiana benthamiana results in accumulation of both monomers as well as assembled oligomers. In particular, we show here that co-expression of BChE with a novel gene-stacking vector, carrying six mammalian genes necessary for in planta protein sialylation, resulted in the generation of rBChE decorated with sialylated N-glycans. The N-glycosylation profile of monomeric rBChE secreted to the apoplast largely resembles the plasma-derived orthologue. In contrast, rBChE purified from total soluble protein extracts was decorated with a significant portion of ER-typical oligomannosidic structures. Biochemical analyses and live-cell imaging experiments indicated that impaired N-glycan processing is due to aberrant deposition of rBChE oligomers in the endoplasmic reticulum or endoplasmic-reticulum-derived compartments. In summary, we show the assembly of rBChE multimers, however, also points to the need for in-depth studies to explain the unexpected subcellular targeting of oligomeric BChE in plants.

© 2014 The Authors Plant Biotechnology Journal published by Society for Experimental Biology and The Association of Applied Biologists and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


butyrylcholinesterase; glycoengineering; plants; sialic acid; subcellular targeting

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