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Nat Biotechnol. 2003 Jan;21(1):52-6. Epub 2002 Dec 16.

Transgenic silkworms produce recombinant human type III procollagen in cocoons.

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Hiroshima Tissue Regeneration Project, Hiroshima Prefecture Collaboration of Regional Entities for Advancement of Technological Excellence, Japan Science and Technology Corporation, 3-10-32, Kagamiyama, Higashihiroshima, Hiroshima 739-0046, Japan.


We describe the generation of transgenic silkworms that produce cocoons containing recombinant human collagen. A fusion cDNA was constructed encoding a protein that incorporated a human type III procollagen mini-chain with C-propeptide deleted, a fibroin light chain (L-chain), and an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). This cDNA was ligated downstream of the fibroin L-chain promoter and inserted into a piggyBac vector. Silkworm eggs were injected with the vectors, producing worms displaying EGFP fluorescence in their silk glands. The cocoons emitted EGFP fluorescence, indicating that the promoter and fibroin L-chain cDNAs directed the synthesized products to be secreted into cocoons. The presence of fusion proteins in cocoons was demonstrated by immunoblotting, collagenase-sensitivity tests, and amino acid sequencing. The fusion proteins from cocoons were purified to a single electrophoretic band. This study demonstrates the viability of transgenic silkworms as a tool for producing useful proteins in bulk.

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