Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1996 May 25;792:62-71.

Bioproduction of human enzymes in transgenic tobacco.

Author information

CropTech Development Corp. Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Blacksburg 24060, USA.


Transgenic plants have significant potential in the bioproduction of complex human therapeutic proteins due to ease of genetic manipulation, lack of potential contamination with human pathogens, conservation of eukaryotic cell machinery mediating protein modification, and low cost of biomass production. Tobacco has been used as our initial transgenic system because Agrobacterium-mediated transformation is highly efficient, prolific seed production greatly facilitates biomass scale-up, and development of new "health-positive" uses for tobacco has significant regional support. We have targeted bioproduction of complex recombinant human proteins with commercial potential as human pharmaceuticals. Human protein C (hPC), a highly processed serum protease of the coagulation/anticoagulation cascade, was produced at low levels in transgenic tobacco leaves. Analogous to its processing in mammalian systems, tobacco-synthesized hPC appears to undergo multiple proteolytic cleavages, disulfide bond formation, and N-linked glycosylation. Although tobacco-derived hPC has not yet been tested for all posttranslational modifications or for enzymatic (anticlotting) activity, these results are promising and suggest considerable conservation of protein processing machinery between plants and animals. CropTech researchers have also produced the human lysosomal enzyme glucocerebrosidase (hGC) in transgenic tobacco. This glycoprotein has significant commercial potential as replacement therapy in patients with Gaucher's disease. Regular intravenous administration of modified glucocerebrosidase, derived from human placentae or CHO cells, has proven highly effective in reducing disease manifestations in patients with Gaucher's disease. However, the enzyme is expensive (dubbed the "world's most expensive drug" by the media), making it a dramatic model for evaluating the potential of plants to provide a safe, low-cost source of bioactive human enzymes. Transgenic tobacco plants were generated that contained the human glucocerebrosidase cDNA under the control of an inducible plant promoter. hGC expression was demonstrated in plant extracts by enzyme activity assay and immunologic cross-reactivity with anti-hGC antibodies. Tobacco-synthesized hGC comigrates with human placental-derived hGC during electrophoretic separations, is glycosylated, and, most significantly, is enzymatically active. Although expression levels vary depending on transformant and induction protocol, hGC production of > 1 mg/g fresh weight of leaf tissue has been attained in crude extracts. Our studies provide strong support for the utilization of tobacco for high-level production of active hGC for purification and eventual therapeutic use at potentially much reduced costs. Furthermore, this technology should be directly adaptable to the production of a variety of other complex human proteins of biologic and pharmaceutical interest.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Wiley
    Loading ...
    Support Center