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Anticancer Res. 1998 Sep-Oct;18(5A):3193-201.

Expression, purification, and characterization of a two domain carcinoembryonic antigen minigene (N-A3) in pichia pastoris. The essential role of the N-domain.

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  • 1City of Hope and Beckman Research Institute Graduate School, Duarte, CA 91010, USA.


Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is a 180 kDa glycoprotein expressed on the surface of normal and malignant human colon. The structure of CEA has seven predicted Ig-like domains (N-A1-B1-A2-B2-A3-B3) that are encoded by separate exons and contain independent epitopes that are recognized by monoclonal antibodies. The N-domain mediates homotypic cell adhesion as shown by deletion expression analysis, and may also interact with the A3 domain. Although we have been unsuccessful in expressing these domains in high yields of active protein in either bacterial or mammalian expression systems, we now report high yield expression in Pichia pastoris of a mini-gene (N-A3) comprising the N and A3 domains of CEA, and containing epitopes for the monoclonal antibodies T84.1 and T84.66. N-A3 was constructed by splice overlap PCR from the CEA gene and fused to the yeast alpha-mating factor leader sequence and an N-terminal His6 tag. The secreted protein gave high level expression (20 micrograms/mL) and was purified in two steps using Ni(NTA) affinity chromatography followed by reversed phase HPLC. The purified protein (yield 6 mg from 600 mL of supernatant) had a single N-terminal sequence, the expected amino acid composition, and retained full reactivity to both T84.1 and T84.66 compared to native CEA. BIAcore analysis gave a Kaff of 4.4 x 10(10) M-1 for the binding of N-A3 to T84.1 and 2.2 x 10(10) M-1 for the binding of N-A3 to T84.66. The molecular weight of N-A3 was 37 kDa before and 24 kDa after enzymatic deglycosylation as determined by SDS gel electrophoresis. The average N-glycosyl unit was calculated at 1850 Da (for 7 N-linked sites) suggesting a GN2Man9 oligosaccharide structure. N-A3 migrated as a dimer at 80 kDa and a monomer at 40 kDa on gel filtration analysis performed at pH 7.5, and 4.0, respectively. CEA exhibited the same conversion of dimers to monomers when analyzed by gel filtration at neutral and acid pH. The availability of this highly active CEA mini-gene should enable further structure-function studies including epitope analysis and investigation of monomer-dimer interactions.

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