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Plant Physiol. 2010 Feb;152(2):622-33. doi: 10.1104/pp.109.149021. Epub 2009 Dec 11.

Hydrophobin fusions for high-level transient protein expression and purification in Nicotiana benthamiana.

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VTT Biotechnology, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Espoo, 02044 VTT, Finland.


Insufficient accumulation levels of recombinant proteins in plants and the lack of efficient purification methods for recovering these valuable proteins have hindered the development of plant biotechnology applications. Hydrophobins are small and surface-active proteins derived from filamentous fungi that can be easily purified by a surfactant-based aqueous two-phase system. In this study, the hydrophobin HFBI sequence from Trichoderma reesei was fused to green fluorescent protein (GFP) and transiently expressed in Nicotiana benthamiana plants by Agrobacterium tumefaciens infiltration. The HFBI fusion significantly enhanced the accumulation of GFP, with the concentration of the fusion protein reaching 51% of total soluble protein, while also delaying necrosis of the infiltrated leaves. Furthermore, the endoplasmic reticulum-targeted GFP-HFBI fusion induced the formation of large novel protein bodies. A simple and scalable surfactant-based aqueous two-phase system was optimized to recover the HFBI fusion proteins from leaf extracts. The single-step phase separation was able to selectively recover up to 91% of the GFP-HFBI up to concentrations of 10 mg mL(-1). HFBI fusions increased the expression levels of plant-made recombinant proteins while also providing a simple means for their subsequent purification. This hydrophobin fusion technology, when combined with the speed and posttranslational modification capabilities of plants, enhances the value of transient plant-based expression systems.

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