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Protein Expr Purif. 2009 Nov;68(1):34-41. doi: 10.1016/j.pep.2009.06.018. Epub 2009 Jun 30.

The superior folding of a RANTES analogue expressed in lactobacilli as compared to mammalian cells reveals a promising system to screen new RANTES mutants.

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  • 1Unit of Human Virology, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, via Olgettina 58, 20132 Milan, Italy.


Development of effective topical microbicides for the prevention of HIV-1 sexual transmission represents a primary goal for the control of the AIDS pandemic. The viral coreceptor CCR5, used by the vast majority of primary HIV-1 isolates, is considered a primary target molecule. RANTES and its derivatives are the most suitable protein-based compounds to fight HIV-1 via CCR5 targeting. Yet, receptor activation should be avoided to prevent pro-inflammatory effects and possibly provide anti-inflammatory properties. C1C5 RANTES is a chemokine mutant that exhibits high anti-HIV-1 potency coupled with CCR5 antagonism. However, the need for the formation of an N-terminal intramolecular disulfide bridge between non-natural cysteine residues at positions 1 and 5 represents a challenge for the correct folding of this protein in recombinant expression systems, a crucial step towards its development as a microbicide against HIV-1. We report here a rare case of superior folding in a prokaryote as compared to an eukaryotic expression system. Production of C1C5 RANTES was highly impaired in CHO cells, with a dramatic yield reduction compared to that of wild type RANTES and secretion of the molecule as disulfide-linked dimer. Conversely, a human vaginal isolate of Lactobacillus jensenii engineered to secrete C1C5 RANTES provided efficient delivery of the monomeric protein. This and other reports on successful secretion of complex proteins indicate that lactic acid bacteria are an excellent system for the expression of therapeutic proteins, which can be used as a platform for the engineering of conceptually novel RANTES mutants with potent anti-HIV-1 activity.

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