Comparison of intracellular and secretion-based strategies for production of human [alpha]-galactosidase A in the filamentous fungus Trichoderma reesei

Wesley Smith, Jussi Jäntti, Merja Oja, Markku Saloheimo

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    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Trichoderma reesei is known as a good producer of industrial proteins but has hitherto been less successful in the production of therapeutic proteins. In order to elucidate the bottlenecks of heterologous protein production, human a-galactosidase A (GLA) was chosen as a model therapeutic protein. Fusion partners were designed to compare the effects of secretion using a cellobiohydrolase I (CBHI) carrier and intracellular production using a gamma zein peptide from maize (ZERA) which accumulates inside the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The two strategies were compared on the basis of expression levels, purification performance, enzymatic activity, bioreactor cultivations, and transcriptional profiling. Results: Constructs were cloned into the cbh1 locus of the T. reesei strain Rut-C30. The secretion and intracellular strains produced 20 mg/l and 636 mg/l of GLA respectively. Purifications of secreted product were accomplished using Step-Tactin affinity columns and for intracellular product, a method was developed for gravity-based density separation and protein body solubilisation. The secreted protein had similar specific activity to that of the commercially available mammalian form. The intracellular version had 5-10-fold lower activity due to the enzymes incompatibility with alkaline pH. The secretion strain achieved 10% lower total biomass than either the parental or the intracellular strain. The patterns of gene induction for intracellular and parental strains were similar, whereas the secretion strain had a broader spectrum of gene expression level changes. Identification of the genes involved indicated strong secretion stress in the secretion strain and to a lesser extent also in intracellular production. Genes involved in the unfolded protein response (UPR) and ER-associated degradation were induced by GLA production, including; hac1, pdi1, prp1, cnx1, der1, and bap31. Conclusions:Active human a-galactosidase could most effectively be produced intracellularly in Trichoderma reesei at >0.5 g/l by avoidance of the extracellular environment, although purification was challenging due to specific activity losses. Strain analysis revealed that in addition to the issues with secreted proteases, the processes of secretion stress including UPR and ER degradation remain as bottlenecks for heterologous protein production. Genetic engineering to eliminate these bottlenecks is the logical path towards establishing a strain capable of producing sensitive heterologous proteins.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number91
    JournalBMC Biotechnology
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Therapeutic protein
    • Human a-galactosidase A
    • Trichoderma reesei
    • Protein body


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