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1.  Expression, secretion and surface display of a human alkaline phosphatase by the ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:11.
Tetrahymena thermophila possesses many attributes that render it an attractive host for the expression of recombinant proteins. Surface proteins from the parasites Ichthyophthirius multifiliis and Plasmodium falciparum and avian influenza virus antigen H5N1 were displayed on the cell membrane of this ciliate. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that T. thermophila is also able to produce a functional human DNase I. The present study investigates the heterologous expression of the functional human intestinal alkaline phosphatase (hiAP) using T. thermophila and thereby presents a powerful tool for the optimization of the ciliate-based expression system.
Functional and full length human intestinal alkaline phosphatase was expressed by T. thermophila using a codon-adapted gene containing the native signal-peptide and GPI (Glycosylphosphatidylinositol) anchor attachment signal. HiAP activity in the cell extract of transformants suggested that the hiAP gene was successfully expressed. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that the enzyme was modified with N-glycosylation and localized on the surface membrane by the C-terminal GPI anchor. A C-terminally truncated version of hiAP lacking the GPI anchor signal peptide was secreted into the medium as an active enzyme. In a first approach to establish a high level expression system up to 14,000 U/liter were produced in a time frame of two days, which exceeds the production rate of other published expression systems for this enzyme.
With the expression of hiAP, not only a protein of commercial interest could be produced, but also a reporter enzyme that offers the possibility to analyze T. thermophila genes that play a role in the regulation of protein secretion. Additionally, the fact that ciliates do not secrete an endogenous alkaline phosphatase provides the possibility to use the truncated hiAP as a reporter enzyme, allowing the quantification of measures that will be necessary for further optimization of the host strains and the fermentation processes.
PMCID: PMC3042934  PMID: 21281462
2.  The bifunctional dihydrofolate reductase thymidylate synthase of Tetrahymena thermophila provides a tool for molecular and biotechnology applications 
BMC Biotechnology  2006;6:21.
Dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) and thymidylate synthase (TS) are crucial enzymes in DNA synthesis. In alveolata both enzymes are expressed as one bifunctional enzyme.
Loss of this essential enzyme activities after successful allelic assortment of knock out alleles yields an auxotrophic marker in ciliates. Here the cloning, characterisation and functional analysis of Tetrahymena thermophila's DHFR-TS is presented. A first aspect of the presented work relates to destruction of DHFR-TS enzyme function in an alveolate thereby causing an auxotrophy for thymidine. A second aspect is to knock in an expression cassette encoding for a foreign gene with subsequent expression of the target protein.
This system avoids the use of antibiotics or other drugs and therefore is of high interest for biotechnological applications.
PMCID: PMC1435751  PMID: 16549005
3.  Secretion of functional human enzymes by Tetrahymena thermophila 
BMC Biotechnology  2006;6:19.
The non-pathogenic ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila is one of the best-characterized unicellular eucaryotes used in various research fields. Previous work has shown that this unicellular organism provides many biological features to become a high-quality expression system, like multiplying to high cell densities with short generation times in bioreactors. In addition, the expression of surface antigens from the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and the ciliate Ichthyophthirius multifiliis suggests that T. thermophila might play an important role in vaccine development. However, the expression of functional mammalian or human enzymes remains so far to be seen.
We have been able to express a human enzyme in T. thermophila using expression modules that encode a fusion protein consisting of the endogenous phospholipase A1 precursor and mature human DNaseI. The recombinant human enzyme is active, indicating that also disulfide bridges are correctly formed. Furthermore, a detailed N-glycan structure of the recombinant enzyme is presented, illustrating a very consistent glycosylation pattern.
The ciliate expression system has the potential to become an excellent expression system. However, additional optimisation steps including host strain improvement as wells as measures to increase the yield of expression are necessary to be able to provide an alternative to the common E. coli and yeast-based systems as well as to transformed mammalian cell lines.
PMCID: PMC1431531  PMID: 16542419

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