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Biotechnol Bioeng. 2019 Aug;116(8):2029-2040. doi: 10.1002/bit.26982. Epub 2019 Apr 16.

Effect of gene copy number and chaperone coexpression on recombinant hydrophobin HFBI biosurfactant production in Pichia pastoris.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia, Thornton Hall, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.


Hydrophobins are small highly surface-active fungal proteins with potential as biosurfactants in a wide array of applications. However, practical implementation of hydrophobins at large scale has been hindered by low recombinant yields. In this study, the effects of increasing hydrophobin gene copy number and overexpressing endoplasmic reticulum resident chaperone proteins Kar2p, Pdi1p, and Ero1p were explored as a means to enhance recombinant yields of the class II hydrophobin HFBI in the eukaryotic expression host Pichia pastoris. One-, 2-, and 3-copy-HFBI strains were attained using an in vitro multimer ligation approach, with strains displaying copy number stability following subsequent transformations as measured by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Increasing HFBI copy number alone had no effect on increasing HFBI secretion, but increasing copy number in concert with chaperone overexpression synergistically increased HFBI secretion. Overexpression of PDI1 or ERO1 caused insignificant changes in HFBI secretion in 1- and 2-copy strains, but a statistically significant HFBI secretion increase in 3-copy strain. KAR2 overexpression consistently resulted in enhanced HFBI secretion in all copy number strains, with 3-copy-HFBI secreting 22±1.6 fold more than the 1-copy-HFBI/no chaperone strain. The highest increase was seen in 3-copy-HFBI/Ero1p overexpressing strain with 30±4.0 fold increase in HFBI secretion over 1-copy-HFBI/no chaperone strain. This corresponded to an expression level of approximately 330 mg/L HFBI in the 5 ml small-scale format used in this study.


biosurfactant; chaperone; hydrophobin


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