Leptospirosis is a zoonose that is increasingly endemic in built-up areas, especially where there are communities living in precarious housing with poor or non-existent sanitation infrastructure. Leptospirosis can kill, for its symptoms are easily confused with those of other diseases. As such, a rapid diagnosis is required so it can be treated effectively. A test for leptospirosis diagnosis using Leptospira Immunoglobulin-like (Lig) proteins is currently at final validation at Fiocruz.
In this work, the process for expression of LigB (131-645aa) in E. coli BL21 (DE3)Star™/pAE was evaluated. No significant difference was found for the experiments at two different pre-induction temperatures (28°C and 37°C). Then, the strain was cultivated at 37°C until IPTG addition, followed by induction at 28°C, thereby reducing the overall process time. Under this condition, expression was assessed using central composite design for two variables: cell growth at which LigB (131-645aa) was induced (absorbance at 600 nm between 0.75 and 2.0) and inducer concentration (0.1 mM to 1 mM IPTG). Both variables influenced cell growth and protein expression. Induction at the final exponential growth phase in shaking flasks with Absind
= 2.0 yielded higher cell concentrations and LigB (131-645aa) productivities. IPTG concentration had a negative effect and could be ten-fold lower than the concentration commonly used in molecular biology (1 mM), while keeping expression at similar levels and inducing less damage to cell growth. The expression of LigB (131-645aa) was associated with cell growth. The induction at the end of the exponential phase using 0.1 mM IPTG at 28°C for 4 h was also performed in microbioreactors, reaching higher cell densities and 970 mg/L protein. LigB (131-645aa) was purified by nickel affinity chromatography with 91% homogeneity.
It was possible to assess the effects and interactions of the induction variables on the expression of soluble LigB (131-645aa) using experimental design, with a view to improving process productivity and reducing the production costs of a rapid test for leptospirosis diagnosis.