Artificial Environments for the Co-Translational Stabilization of Cell-Free Expressed Proteins

>An approach for designing individual expression environments that reduce or prevent protein aggregation and precipitation is described. Inefficient folding of difficult proteins in unfavorable translation environments can cause significant losses of overexpressed proteins as precipitates or inclusion bodies. A number of chemical chaperones including alcohols, polyols, polyions or polymers are known to have positive effects on protein stability. However, conventional expression approaches can use such stabilizing agents only post-translationally during protein extraction and purification. Proteins that already precipitate inside of the producer cells cannot be addressed. The open nature of cell-free protein expression systems offers the option to include single chemicals or cocktails of stabilizing compounds already into the expression environment. We report an approach for systematic screening of stabilizers in order to improve the solubility and quality of overexpressed proteins co-translationally. A comprehensive list of representative protein stabilizers from the major groups of naturally occurring chemical chaperones has been analyzed and their concentration ranges tolerated by cell-free expression systems have been determined. As a proof of concept, we have applied the method to improve the yield of proteins showing instability and partial precipitation during cell-free synthesis. Stabilizers that co-translationally improve the solubility and functional folding of human glucosamine 6-phosphate N-acetyltransferase have been identified and cumulative effects of stabilizers have been studied.

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