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1.  Antibody degradation in tobacco plants: a predominantly apoplastic process 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:128.
Interest in using plants for production of recombinant proteins such as monoclonal antibodies is growing, but proteolytic degradation, leading to a loss of functionality and complications in downstream purification, is still a serious problem.
In this study, we investigated the dynamics of the assembly and breakdown of a human IgG1κ antibody expressed in plants. Initial studies in a human IgG transgenic plant line suggested that IgG fragments were present prior to extraction. Indeed, when the proteolytic activity of non-transgenic Nicotiana tabacum leaf extracts was tested against a human IgG1 substrate, little activity was detectable in extraction buffers with pH > 5. Significant degradation was only observed when the plant extract was buffered below pH 5, but this proteolysis could be abrogated by addition of protease inhibitors. Pulse-chase analysis of IgG MAb transgenic plants also demonstrated that IgG assembly intermediates are present intracellularly and are not secreted, and indicates that the majority of proteolytic degradation occurs following secretion into the apoplastic space.
The results provide evidence that proteolytic fragments derived from antibodies of the IgG subtype expressed in tobacco plants do not accumulate within the cell, and are instead likely to occur in the apoplastic space. Furthermore, any proteolytic activity due to the release of proteases from subcellular compartments during tissue disruption and extraction is not a major consideration under most commonly used extraction conditions.
PMCID: PMC3260137  PMID: 22208820
2.  Incorporation of albumin fusion proteins into fibrin clots in vitro and in vivo: comparison of different fusion motifs recognized by factor XIIIa 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:127.
The transglutaminase activated factor XIII (FXIIIa) acts to strengthen pathological fibrin clots and to slow their dissolution, in part by crosslinking active α2-antiplasmin (α2AP) to fibrin. We previously reported that a yeast-derived recombinant fusion protein comprising α2AP residues 13-42 linked to human serum albumin (HSA) weakened in vitro clots but failed to become specifically incorporated into in vivo clots. In this study, our aims were to improve both the stability and clot localization of the HSA fusion protein by replacing α2AP residues 13-42 with shorter sequences recognized more effectively by FXIIIa.
Expression plasmids were prepared encoding recombinant HSA with the following N-terminal 23 residue extensions: H6NQEQVSPLTLLAG4Y (designated XL1); H6DQMMLPWAVTLG4Y (XL2); H6WQHKIDLPYNGAG4Y (XL3); and their 17 residue non-His-tagged equivalents (XL4, XL5, and XL6). The HSA moiety of XL4- to XL6-HSA proteins was C-terminally His-tagged. All chimerae were efficiently secreted from transformed Pichia pastoris yeast except XL3-HSA, and following nickel chelate affinity purification were found to be intact by amino acid sequencing, as was an N-terminally His-tagged version of α2AP(13-42)-HSA. Of the proteins tested, XL5-HSA was cross-linked to biotin pentylamine (BPA) most rapidly by FXIIIa, and was the most effective competitor of α2AP crosslinking not only to BPA but also to plasma fibrin clots. In the mouse ferric chloride vena cava thrombosis model, radiolabeled XL5-HSA was retained in the clot to a greater extent than recombinant HSA. In the rabbit jugular vein stasis thrombosis model, XL5-HSA was also retained in the clot, in a urea-insensitive manner indicative of crosslinking to fibrin, to a greater extent than recombinant HSA.
Fusion protein XL5-HSA (DQMMLPWAVTLG4Y-HSAH6) was found to be more active as a substrate for FXIIIa-mediated transamidation than seven other candidate fusion proteins in vitro. The improved stability and reactivity of this chimeric protein was further evidenced by its incorporation into in vivo clots formed in thrombosis models in both mice and rabbits.
PMCID: PMC3258216  PMID: 22185689
3.  In situ gastrointestinal protection against anthrax edema toxin by single-chain antibody fragment producing lactobacilli 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:126.
Anthrax is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and is regarded as one of the most prominent bioterrorism threats. Anthrax toxicity is induced by the tripartite toxin complex, composed of the receptor-binding anthrax protective antigen and the two enzymatic subunits, lethal factor and edema factor. Recombinant lactobacilli have previously been used to deliver antibody fragments directed against surface epitopes of a variety of pathogens, including Streptococcus mutans, Porphyromonas gingivalis, and rotavirus. Here, we addressed whether or not anthrax toxins could be targeted and neutralised in the gastrointestinal tract by lactobacilli producing recombinant antibody fragments as a model system for toxin neutralisation in the gastrointestinal lumen.
The neutralising anti-PA scFv, 1H, was expressed in L. paracasei as a secreted protein, a cell wall-anchored protein or both secreted and wall-anchored protein. Cell wall display on lactobacilli and PA binding of the anchored constructs was confirmed by flow cytometry analysis. Binding of secreted or attached scFv produced by lactobacilli to PA were verified by ELISA. Both construct were able to protect macrophages in an in vitro cytotoxicity assay. Finally, lactobacilli producing the cell wall attached scFv were able to neutralise the activity of anthrax edema toxin in the GI tract of mice, in vivo.
We have developed lactobacilli expressing a neutralising scFv fragment against the PA antigen of the anthrax toxin, which can provide protection against anthrax toxins both in vitro and in vivo. Utilising engineered lactobacilli therapeutically for neutralising toxins in the gastrointestinal tract can potential be expanded to provide protection against a range of additional gastrointestinal pathogens. The ability of lactobacilli to colonise the gastrointestinal tract may allow the system to be used both prophylactically and therapeutically.
PMCID: PMC3295704  PMID: 22185669
4.  Transmission electron microscopy characterization of fluorescently labelled amyloid β 1-40 and α-synuclein aggregates 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:125.
Fluorescent tags, including small organic molecules and fluorescent proteins, enable the localization of protein molecules in biomedical research experiments. However, the use of these labels may interfere with the formation of larger-scale protein structures such as amyloid aggregates. Therefore, we investigate the effects of some commonly used fluorescent tags on the morphologies of fibrils grown from the Alzheimer's disease-associated peptide Amyloid β 1-40 (Aβ40) and the Parkinson's disease-associated protein α-synuclein (αS).
Using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), we verify that N-terminal labeling of Aβ40 with AMCA, TAMRA, and Hilyte-Fluor 488 tags does not prevent the formation of protofibrils and amyloid fibrils of various widths. We also measure the two-photon action cross-section of Aβ40 labelled with Hilyte Fluor 488 and demonstrate that this tag is suitable for use with two-photon fluorescence techniques. Similarly, we find that Alexa Fluor 488 labelling of αS variant proteins near either the N or C terminus (position 9 or 130) does not interfere with the formation of amyloid and other types of αS fibrils. We also present TEM images of fibrils grown from αS C-terminally labelled with enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). Near neutral pH, two types of αS-EGFP fibrils are observed via TEM, while denaturation of the EGFP tag leads to the formation of additional species.
We demonstrate that several small extrinsic fluorescent tags are compatible with studies of amyloid protein aggregation. However, although fibrils can be grown from αS labelled with EGFP, the conformation of the fluorescent protein tag affects the observed aggregate morphologies. Thus, our results should assist researchers with label selection and optimization of solution conditions for aggregation studies involving fluorescence techniques.
PMCID: PMC3323903  PMID: 22182687
5.  Adsorption characteristics of an enteric virus-binding protein to norovirus, rotavirus and poliovirus 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:123.
Water contamination with human enteric viruses has posed human health risks all over the world. Reasonable and facile methodologies for recovering and quantifying infectious enteric viruses in environmental samples are needed to address the issues of waterborne viral infectious diseases. In this study, a bacterial protein that has a binding capability with several enteric viruses is discovered, and its binding characteristics were investigated for utilizing it as a viral adsorbent in virus recovery and detection technologies.
A gene of an enteric virus-binding protein (EVBP), derived from a monomer of a bacterial chaperon protein GroEL, was successfully acquired from a genomic DNA library of activated sludge microorganisms with nested PCR. Equilibrium dissociation constants between EVBP and norovirus-like particles (NoVLPs) of genotypes GI.7 and GII.4, estimated with quartz crystal microbalance method, were 240 and 210 nM, respectively. These values of equilibrium dissociation constant imply that the binding affinity between EVBP and NoVLPs is 1 to 3-log weaker than that in general antigen-antibody interactions, but about 2-log stronger than that in weak specific interactions of proteins with cations and organic polymers. The adsorptions of EVBP to norovirus, group A rotavirus and poliovirus type 1 were found to be significant in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Meanwhile, the binding of native GroEL tetradecamer to viral particles was weaker than that of EVBP, presumably because of a steric hindrance. The small molecule of EVBP could have an advantage in the access to the surface of viral particles with rugged structure.
EVBP that has a broad binding spectrum to enteric viruses was newly discovered. The broad binding characteristic of EVBP would allow us to utilize it as a novel adsorbent for detecting diverse enteric viruses in clinical and environmental samples.
PMCID: PMC3262155  PMID: 22176631
6.  Real-time PCR-based assay to quantify the relative amount of human and mouse tissue present in tumor xenografts 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:124.
Xenograft samples used to test anti-cancer drug efficacies and toxicities in vivo contain an unknown mix of mouse and human cells. Evaluation of drug activity can be confounded by samples containing large amounts of contaminating mouse tissue. We have developed a real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay using TaqMan technology to quantify the amount of mouse tissue that is incorporated into human xenograft samples.
The forward and reverse primers bind to the same DNA sequence in the human and the mouse genome. Using a set of specially designed fluorescent probes provides species specificity. The linearity and sensitivity of the assay is evaluated using serial dilutions of single species and heterogeneous DNA mixtures. We examined many xenograft samples at various in vivo passages, finding a wide variety of human:mouse DNA ratios. This variation may be influenced by tumor type, number of serial passages in vivo, and even which part of the tumor was collected and used in the assay.
This novel assay provides an accurate quantitative assessment of human and mouse content in xenograft tumors. This assay can be performed on aberrantly behaving human xenografts, samples used in bioinformatics studies, and periodically for tumor tissue frequently grown by serial passage in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3281124  PMID: 22176647
7.  Targeted sequencing library preparation by genomic DNA circularization 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:122.
For next generation DNA sequencing, we have developed a rapid and simple approach for preparing DNA libraries of targeted DNA content. Current protocols for preparing DNA for next-generation targeted sequencing are labor-intensive, require large amounts of starting material, and are prone to artifacts that result from necessary PCR amplification of sequencing libraries. Typically, sample preparation for targeted NGS is a two-step process where (1) the desired regions are selectively captured and (2) the ends of the DNA molecules are modified to render them compatible with any given NGS sequencing platform.
In this proof-of-concept study, we present an integrated approach that combines these two separate steps into one. Our method involves circularization of a specific genomic DNA molecule that directly incorporates the necessary components for conducting sequencing in a single assay and requires only one PCR amplification step. We also show that specific regions of the genome can be targeted and sequenced without any PCR amplification.
We anticipate that these rapid targeted libraries will be useful for validation of variants and may have diagnostic application.
PMCID: PMC3280942  PMID: 22168766
8.  Combining M-FISH and Quantum Dot technology for fast chromosomal assignment of transgenic insertions 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:121.
Physical mapping of transgenic insertions by Fluorescence in situ Hybridization (FISH) is a reliable and cost-effective technique. Chromosomal assignment is commonly achieved either by concurrent G-banding or by a multi-color FISH approach consisting of iteratively co-hybridizing the transgenic sequence of interest with one or more chromosome-specific probes at a time, until the location of the transgenic insertion is identified.
Here we report a technical development for fast chromosomal assignment of transgenic insertions at the single cell level in mouse and rat models. This comprises a simplified 'single denaturation mixed hybridization' procedure that combines multi-color karyotyping by Multiplex FISH (M-FISH), for simultaneous and unambiguous identification of all chromosomes at once, and the use of a Quantum Dot (QD) conjugate for the transgene detection.
Although the exploitation of the unique optical properties of QD nanocrystals, such as photo-stability and brightness, to improve FISH performance generally has been previously investigated, to our knowledge this is the first report of a purpose-designed molecular cytogenetic protocol in which the combined use of QDs and standard organic fluorophores is specifically tailored to assist gene transfer technology.
PMCID: PMC3266222  PMID: 22165957
9.  GAL1-SceI directed site-specific genomic (gsSSG) mutagenesis: a method for precisely targeting point mutations in S. cerevisiae 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:120.
Precise targeted mutations are defined as targeted mutations that do not require the retention of other genetic changes, such as marker genes, near the mutation site. In the yeast, S. cerevisiae, there are several methods for introducing precise targeted mutations, all of which depend on inserting both a counter-selectable marker and DNA bearing the mutation. For example, the marker can first be inserted, and then replaced with either a long oligonucleotide carrying the mutation (delitto perfetto) or a PCR fragment synthesized with one primer containing the mutation (SSG mutagenesis).
A hybrid method for targeting precise mutation into the genomes uses PCR fragments as in SSG mutagenesis together with a CORE cassette devised for delitto perfetto that contains the homing endonuclease SceI. This method, termed gsSSG mutagenesis, is much more efficient than standard SSG mutagenesis, allowing replacements to be identified without extensive screening of isolates. In gsSSG, recombination between the PCR fragment and the genome occurs equally efficiently regardless of the size of the fragment or the distance between the fragment end and the site of marker insertion. In contrast, the efficiency of incorporating targeted mutations by this method increases as the distance between the mutation and the marker insertion site decreases.
gsSSG is an efficient way of introducing precise mutations into the genome of S. cerevisiae. The frequency of incorporating the targeted mutation remains efficient at least as far as 460 bp from the insertion site meaning that a single insertion can be used to create many different mutants. The overall efficiency of gsSSG can be estimated based on the distance between the mutation and the marker insertion, and this efficiency can be maximized by limiting the number of untargeted mutations. Thus, a single insertion of marker genes plus homing endonuclease cassette can be used to efficiently introduce precise point mutations through a region of > 900 bp.
PMCID: PMC3251539  PMID: 22141399
10.  RibM from Streptomyces davawensis is a riboflavin/roseoflavin transporter and may be useful for the optimization of riboflavin production strains 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:119.
The bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which is not a natural riboflavin overproducer, has been converted into an excellent production strain by classical mutagenesis and metabolic engineering. To our knowledge, the enhancement of riboflavin excretion from the cytoplasm of overproducing cells has not yet been considered as a target for (further) strain improvement. Here we evaluate the flavin transporter RibM from Streptomyces davawensis with respect to improvement of a riboflavin production strain.
The gene ribM from S. davawensis, coding for a putative facilitator of riboflavin uptake, was codon optimized (ribMopt) for expression in B. subtilis. The gene ribMopt was functionally introduced into B. subtilis using the isopropyl-β-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG)-inducible expression plasmid pHT01: Northern-blot analysis of total RNA from IPTG treated recombinant B. subtilis cells revealed a ribMopt specific transcript. Western blot analysis showed that the his6-tagged heterologous gene product RibM was present in the cytoplasmic membrane. Expression of ribM in Escherichia coli increased [14C]riboflavin uptake, which was not affected by the protonophore carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP). Expression of ribMopt supported growth of a B. subtilis ΔribB::Ermr ΔribU::Kanr double mutant deficient in riboflavin synthesis (ΔribB) and also deficient with respect to riboflavin uptake (ΔribU). Expression of ribMopt increased roseoflavin (a toxic riboflavin analog produced by S. davawensis) sensitivity of a B. subtilis ΔribU::Kanr strain. Riboflavin synthesis by a model riboflavin B. subtilis production strain overproducing RibM was increased significantly depending on the amount of the inducer IPTG.
The energy independent flavin facilitator RibM could in principle catalyze riboflavin export and thus may be useful to increase the riboflavin yield in a riboflavin production process using a recombinant RibM overproducing B. subtilis strain (or any other microorganism).
PMCID: PMC3239331  PMID: 22136195
11.  A simple viability analysis for unicellular cyanobacteria using a new autofluorescence assay, automated microscopy, and ImageJ 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:118.
Currently established methods to identify viable and non-viable cells of cyanobacteria are either time-consuming (eg. plating) or preparation-intensive (eg. fluorescent staining). In this paper we present a new and fast viability assay for unicellular cyanobacteria, which uses red chlorophyll fluorescence and an unspecific green autofluorescence for the differentiation of viable and non-viable cells without the need of sample preparation.
The viability assay for unicellular cyanobacteria using red and green autofluorescence was established and validated for the model organism Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. Both autofluorescence signals could be observed simultaneously allowing a direct classification of viable and non-viable cells. The results were confirmed by plating/colony count, absorption spectra and chlorophyll measurements. The use of an automated fluorescence microscope and a novel ImageJ based image analysis plugin allow a semi-automated analysis.
The new method simplifies the process of viability analysis and allows a quick and accurate analysis. Furthermore results indicate that a combination of the new assay with absorption spectra or chlorophyll concentration measurements allows the estimation of the vitality of cells.
PMCID: PMC3247844  PMID: 22129198
12.  Expression of recombinant multi-coloured fluorescent antibodies in gor -/trxB- E. coli cytoplasm 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:117.
Antibody-fluorophore conjugates are invaluable reagents used in contemporary molecular cell biology for imaging, cell sorting and tracking intracellular events. However they suffer in some cases from batch to batch variation, partial loss of binding and susceptibility to photo-bleaching. In theory, these issues can all be addressed by using recombinant antibody fused directly to genetically encoded fluorescent reporters. However, single-chain fragment variable domains linked by long flexible linkers are themselves prone to disassociation and aggregation, and in some cases with isoelectric points incompatible with use in physiologically relevant milieu. Here we describe a general approach that permits fully functional intracellular production of a range of coloured fluorescent recombinant antibodies with optimally orientated VH/VL interfaces and isoelectric points compatible for use in physiological solutions at pH 7.4 with a binding site to fluorophore stoichiometry of 1:1.
Here we report the design, assembly, intracellular bacterial production and purification of a panel of novel antibody fluorescent protein fusion constructs. The insertion of monomeric fluorescent protein derived from either Discosoma or Aequorea in-between the variable regions of anti-p185HER2-ECD antibody 4D5-8 resulted in optimal VH/VL interface interactions to create soluble coloured antibodies each with a single binding site, with isoelectric points of 6.5- 6. The fluorescent antibodies used in cell staining studies with SK-BR-3 cells retained the fluorophore properties and antibody specificity functions, whereas the conventional 4D5-8 single chain antibody with a (Gly4Ser)3 linker precipitated at physiological pH 7.4.
This modular monomeric recombinant fluorescent antibody platform may be used to create a range of recombinant coloured antibody molecules for quantitative in situ, in vivo and ex vivo imaging, cell sorting and cell trafficking studies. Assembling the single chain antibody with monomeric fluorescent protein linker facilitates optimal variable domain pairing and alters the isoelectric point of the recombinant 4D5-8 protein conferring solubility at physiological pH 7.4. The efficient intracellular expression of these functional molecules opens up the possibility of developing an alternative approach for tagging intracellular targets with fluorescent proteins for a range of molecular cell biology imaging studies.
PMCID: PMC3280946  PMID: 22129156
13.  Cold-shock eliminates female nucleus in fertilized eggs to induce androgenesis in the loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus), a teleost fish 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:116.
Androgenesis (all-male inheritance) is generally induced by means of irradiating the eggs to inactivate the maternal genome, followed by fertilization with normal sperm. In fish, the conventional technique for induced androgenesis has been applied for rapid fixation to traits, recovery of cryopreserved genotypes, sex-control, etc. A new method of androgenesis that eliminates the need to irradiate the egg was proposed using the loach, Misgurnus anguillicaudatus (a teleost fish).
When the eggs of wild-type females were fertilized with sperm of albino or orange phenotype males and cold-shocked at 0 to 3°C for 60 min duration just after fertilization, generally more than 30% (with a peak of 100%) of the hatched progeny were androgenotes. While a few of them were the normal diploid, most of them turned out to be abnormal haploid. All-male inheritance was verified by the expression of the recessive color trait (albino or orange) and microsatellite genotypes comprising only paternally derived alleles. Nuclear behavior after the cold-shock treatment was traced by microscopic observation of DAPI (4'6-diamidino-2-phenylindole)-stained samples and hematoxylin-eosin stained histological sections, and the extrusion of egg (maternal) nucleus was observed in eggs treated in the optimum timing.
In this paper, we demonstrate that cold-shock treatment (at 0 and 3°C) of loach eggs for 60 min just after fertilization successfully induces androgenetic haploid development. The most likely mechanism of cold-shock induced androgenesis is an elimination of the egg nucleus together along with the second polar body and subsequent development of a decondensed sperm nucleus or male pronucleus.
PMCID: PMC3266226  PMID: 22122997
14.  Isolation and functional characterization of a cotton ubiquitination-related promoter and 5'UTR that drives high levels of expression in root and flower tissues 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:115.
Cotton (Gossypium spp.) is an important crop worldwide that provides raw material to 40% of the textile fiber industry. Important traits have been studied aiming the development of genetically modified crops including resistance to insect and diseases, and tolerance to drought, cold and herbicide. Therefore, the characterization of promoters and regulatory regions is also important to achieve high gene expression and/or a specific expression pattern. Commonly, genes involved in ubiquitination pathways are highly and differentially expressed. In this study, we analyzed the expression of a cotton ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2) family member with no previous characterization.
Nucleotide analysis revealed high identity with cotton E2 homologues. Multiple alignment showed a premature stop codon, which prevents the encoding of the conserved cysteine residue at the E2 active site, and an intron that is spliced in E2 homologues, but not in GhGDRP85. The GhGDRP85 gene is highly expressed in different organs of cotton plants, and has high transcript levels in roots. Its promoter (uceApro2) and the 5'UTR compose a regulatory region named uceA1.7, and were isolated from cotton and studied in Arabidopsis thaliana. uceA1.7 shows strong expression levels, equaling or surpassing the expression levels of CaMV35S. The uceA1.7 regulatory sequence drives GUS expression 7-fold higher in flowers, 2-fold in roots and at similar levels in leaves and stems. GUS expression levels are decreased 7- to 15-fold when its 5'UTR is absent in uceApro2.
uceA1.7 is a strong constitutive regulatory sequence composed of a promoter (uceApro2) and its 5'UTR that will be useful in genetic transformation of dicots, having high potential to drive high levels of transgene expression in crops, particularly for traits desirable in flower and root tissues.
PMCID: PMC3239415  PMID: 22115195
15.  Transient transfection of serum-free suspension HEK 293 cell culture for efficient production of human rFVIII 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:114.
Hemophilia A is a bleeding disorder caused by deficiency in coagulation factor VIII. Recombinant factor VIII (rFVIII) is an alternative to plasma-derived FVIII for the treatment of hemophilia A. However, commercial manufacturing of rFVIII products is inefficient and costly and is associated to high prices and product shortage, even in economically privileged countries. This situation may be solved by adopting more efficient production methods. Here, we evaluated the potential of transient transfection in producing rFVIII in serum-free suspension HEK 293 cell cultures and investigated the effects of different DNA concentration (0.4, 0.6 and 0.8 μg/106 cells) and repeated transfections done at 34° and 37°C.
We observed a decrease in cell growth when high DNA concentrations were used, but no significant differences in transfection efficiency and in the biological activity of the rFVIII were noticed. The best condition for rFVIII production was obtained with repeated transfections at 34°C using 0.4 μg DNA/106 cells through which almost 50 IU of active rFVIII was produced six days post-transfection.
Serum-free suspension transient transfection is thus a viable option for high-yield-rFVIII production. Work is in progress to further optimize the process and validate its scalability.
PMCID: PMC3254136  PMID: 22115125
16.  Isolation of a nanomolar scFv inhibiting the endopeptidase activity of botulinum toxin A, by single-round panning of an immune phage-displayed library of macaque origin 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:113.
Botulinum neurotoxin A (BoNT/A), mainly represented by subtype A1, is the most toxic substance known. It causes naturally-occurring food poisoning, and is among the biological agents at the highest risk of being weaponized. Several antibodies neutralizing BoNT/A by targeting its heavy chain (BoNT/A-H) have been isolated in the past. For the first time however, an IgG (4LCA) recently isolated by hybridoma technology and targeting the BoNT/A light chain (BoNT/A-L), was shown to inhibit BoNT/A endopeptidase activity and protect in vivo against BoNT/A. In the present study, a phage-displayed library was constructed from a macaque (Macaca fascicularis) hyper-immunized with BoNTA/L in order to isolate scFvs inhibiting BoNT/A endopeptidase activity for clinical use.
Diversity of the scFvs constituting the library was limited due to the frequent presence, within the genes intended to be part of the library, of restriction sites utilized for its construction. After screening with several rounds of increasing stringency, as is usual with phage technology, the library got overwhelmed by phagemids encoding incomplete scFvs. The screening was successfully re-performed with a single round of high stringency. In particular, one of the isolated scFvs, 2H8, bound BoNT/A1 with a 3.3 nM affinity and effectively inhibited BoNT/A1 endopeptidase activity. The sequence encoding 2H8 was 88% identical to human germline genes and its average G-score was -0.72, quantifying the high human-like quality of 2H8.
The presence of restrictions sites within many of the sequences that were to be part of the library did not prevent the isolation of an scFv, 2H8, by an adapted panning strategy. ScFv 2H8 inhibited toxin endopeptidase activity in vitro and possessed human-like quality required for clinical development. More generally, the construction and screening of phage-displayed libraries built from hyper-immunized non-human primates is an efficient solution to isolate antibody fragments with therapeutic potential.
PMCID: PMC3252318  PMID: 22111995
17.  Physicochemical and biological characterization of 1E10 Anti-Idiotype vaccine 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:112.
1E10 monoclonal antibody is a murine anti-idiotypic antibody that mimics N-glycolyl-GM3 gangliosides. This antibody has been tested as an anti-idiotypic cancer vaccine, adjuvated in Al(OH)3, in several clinical trials for melanoma, breast, and lung cancer. During early clinical development this mAb was obtained in vivo from mice ascites fluid. Currently, the production process of 1E10 is being transferred from the in vivo to a bioreactor-based method.
Here, we present a comprehensive molecular and immunological characterization of 1E10 produced by the two different production processes in order to determine the impact of the manufacturing process in vaccine performance. We observed differences in glycosylation pattern, charge heterogeneity and structural stability between in vivo-produced 1E10 and bioreactor-obtained 1E10. Interestingly, these modifications had no significant impact on the immune responses elicited in two different animal models.
Changes in 1E10 primary structure like glycosylation; asparagine deamidation and oxidation affected 1E10 structural stability but did not affect the immune response elicited in mice and chickens when compared to 1E10 produced in mice.
PMCID: PMC3238287  PMID: 22108317
18.  An engineered pathway for glyoxylate metabolism in tobacco plants aimed to avoid the release of ammonia in photorespiration 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:111.
The photorespiratory nitrogen cycle in C3 plants involves an extensive diversion of carbon and nitrogen away from the direct pathways of assimilation. The liberated ammonia is re-assimilated, but up to 25% of the carbon may be released into the atmosphere as CO2. Because of the loss of CO2 and high energy costs, there has been considerable interest in attempts to decrease the flux through the cycle in C3 plants. Transgenic tobacco plants were generated that contained the genes gcl and hyi from E. coli encoding glyoxylate carboligase (EC and hydroxypyruvate isomerase (EC respectively, targeted to the peroxisomes. It was presumed that the two enzymes could work together and compete with the aminotransferases that convert glyoxylate to glycine, thus avoiding ammonia production in the photorespiratory nitrogen cycle.
When grown in ambient air, but not in elevated CO2, the transgenic tobacco lines had a distinctive phenotype of necrotic lesions on the leaves. Three of the six lines chosen for a detailed study contained single copies of the gcl gene, two contained single copies of both the gcl and hyi genes and one line contained multiple copies of both gcl and hyi genes. The gcl protein was detected in the five transgenic lines containing single copies of the gcl gene but hyi protein was not detected in any of the transgenic lines. The content of soluble amino acids including glycine and serine, was generally increased in the transgenic lines growing in air, when compared to the wild type. The content of soluble sugars, glucose, fructose and sucrose in the shoot was decreased in transgenic lines growing in air, consistent with decreased carbon assimilation.
Tobacco plants have been generated that produce bacterial glyoxylate carboligase but not hydroxypyruvate isomerase. The transgenic plants exhibit a stress response when exposed to air, suggesting that some glyoxylate is diverted away from conversion to glycine in a deleterious short-circuit of the photorespiratory nitrogen cycle. This diversion in metabolism gave rise to increased concentrations of amino acids, in particular glutamine and asparagine in the leaves and a decrease of soluble sugars.
PMCID: PMC3252329  PMID: 22104170
19.  Optimization of culture conditions to produce high yields of active Acetobacter sp. CCTCC M209061 cells for anti-Prelog reduction of prochiral ketones 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:110.
Chiral alcohols are widely used in the synthesis of chiral pharmaceuticals, flavors and functional materials and appropriate whole-cell biocatalysts offer a highly enantioselective, minimally polluting route to these valuable compounds. The recently isolated strain Acetobacter sp. CCTCC M209061 showed exclusive anti-Prelog stereoselectivity for the reduction of prochiral ketones, but the low biomass has limited its commercialization and industrial applications. To tackle this problem, the effects of medium components and culture conditions on the strain's growth and reduction activity were explored.
By using a one-at-a-time method and a central composite rotatable design (CCRD), the optimal medium and culture conditions were found to be as follows: glucose 8.26 g/L, fructose 2.50 g/L, soy peptone 83.92 g/L, MnSO4·H2O 0.088 g/L, pH 5.70, 30°C and 10% (v/v) inoculum. Under the above-mentioned conditions, the biomass after 30 h cultivation reached 1.10 ± 0.03 g/L, which was 9.5-fold higher than that obtained with basic medium. Also, the reduction activity towards 4'-chloroacetophenone was markedly enhanced to 39.49 ± 0.96 μmol/min/g from 29.34 ± 0.65 μmol/min/g, with the product e.e. being above 99%. Comparable improvements were also seen with the enantioselective bioreduction of 4-(trimethylsilyl)-3-butyn-2-one to the key pharmaceutical precursor (R) - 4-(trimethylsilyl)-3-butyn-2-ol.
The biomass and reduction activity of Acetobacter sp. CCTCC M209061 can be greatly enhanced through the optimization strategy. This facilitates use of the strain in the anti-Prelog stereoselective reduction of prochiral ketones to enantiopure chiral alcohols as building blocks for many industries.
PMCID: PMC3341575  PMID: 22099947
20.  Fusion primer and nested integrated PCR (FPNI-PCR): a new high-efficiency strategy for rapid chromosome walking or flanking sequence cloning 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:109.
The advent of genomics-based technologies has revolutionized many fields of biological enquiry. However, chromosome walking or flanking sequence cloning is still a necessary and important procedure to determining gene structure. Such methods are used to identify T-DNA insertion sites and so are especially relevant for organisms where large T-DNA insertion libraries have been created, such as rice and Arabidopsis. The currently available methods for flanking sequence cloning, including the popular TAIL-PCR technique, are relatively laborious and slow.
Here, we report a simple and effective fusion primer and nested integrated PCR method (FPNI-PCR) for the identification and cloning of unknown genomic regions flanked known sequences. In brief, a set of universal primers was designed that consisted of various 15-16 base arbitrary degenerate oligonucleotides. These arbitrary degenerate primers were fused to the 3' end of an adaptor oligonucleotide which provided a known sequence without degenerate nucleotides, thereby forming the fusion primers (FPs). These fusion primers are employed in the first step of an integrated nested PCR strategy which defines the overall FPNI-PCR protocol. In order to demonstrate the efficacy of this novel strategy, we have successfully used it to isolate multiple genomic sequences namely, 21 orthologs of genes in various species of Rosaceace, 4 MYB genes of Rosa rugosa, 3 promoters of transcription factors of Petunia hybrida, and 4 flanking sequences of T-DNA insertion sites in transgenic tobacco lines and 6 specific genes from sequenced genome of rice and Arabidopsis.
The successful amplification of target products through FPNI-PCR verified that this novel strategy is an effective, low cost and simple procedure. Furthermore, FPNI-PCR represents a more sensitive, rapid and accurate technique than the established TAIL-PCR and hiTAIL-PCR procedures.
PMCID: PMC3239319  PMID: 22093809
21.  Rapid in vivo analysis of synthetic promoters for plant pathogen phytosensing 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:108.
We aimed to engineer transgenic plants for the purpose of early detection of plant pathogen infection, which was accomplished by employing synthetic pathogen inducible promoters fused to reporter genes for altered phenotypes in response to the pathogen infection. Toward this end, a number of synthetic promoters consisting of inducible regulatory elements fused to a red fluorescent protein (RFP) reporter were constructed for use in phytosensing.
For rapid analysis, an Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression assay was evaluated, then utilized to assess the inducibility of each synthetic promoter construct in vivo. Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum cv. Xanthi) leaves were infiltrated with Agrobacterium harboring the individual synthetic promoter-reporter constructs. The infiltrated tobacco leaves were re-infiltrated with biotic (bacterial pathogens) or abiotic (plant defense signal molecules salicylic acid, ethylene and methyl jasmonate) agents 24 and 48 hours after initial agroinfiltration, followed by RFP measurements at relevant time points after treatment. These analyses indicated that the synthetic promoter constructs were capable of conferring the inducibility of the RFP reporter in response to appropriate phytohormones and bacterial pathogens, accordingly.
These observations demonstrate that the Agrobacterium-mediated transient expression is an efficient method for in vivo assays of promoter constructs in less than one week. Our results provide the opportunity to gain further insights into the versatility of the expression system as a potential tool for high-throughput in planta expression screening prior to generating stably transgenic plants for pathogen phytosensing. This system could also be utilized for temporary phytosensing; e.g., not requiring stably transgenic plants.
PMCID: PMC3247077  PMID: 22093754
22.  Construction of permanently inducible miRNA-based expression vectors using site-specific recombinases 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:107.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a conserved gene silencing mechanism mediated by small inhibitory microRNAs (miRNAs).
Promoter-driven miRNA expression vectors have emerged as important tools for delivering natural or artificially designed miRNAs to eukaryotic cells and organisms. Such systems can be used to query the normal or pathogenic functions of natural miRNAs or messenger RNAs, or to therapeutically silence disease genes.
As with any molecular cloning procedure, building miRNA-based expression constructs requires a time investment and some molecular biology skills. To improve efficiency and accelerate the construction process, we developed a method to rapidly generate miRNA expression vectors using recombinases instead of more traditional cut-and-paste molecular cloning techniques. In addition to streamlining the construction process, our cloning strategy provides vectors with added versatility. In our system, miRNAs can be constitutively expressed from the U6 promoter, or inducibly expressed by Cre recombinase. We also engineered a built-in mechanism to destroy the vector with Flp recombinase, if desired. Finally, to further simplify the construction process, we developed a software package that automates the prediction and design of optimal miRNA sequences using our system.
We designed and tested a modular system to rapidly clone miRNA expression cassettes. Our strategy reduces the hands-on time required to successfully generate effective constructs, and can be implemented in labs with minimal molecular cloning expertise. This versatile system provides options that permit constitutive or inducible miRNA expression, depending upon the needs of the end user. As such, it has utility for basic or translational applications.
PMCID: PMC3252340  PMID: 22087765
23.  Efficient production of chimeric Human papillomavirus 16 L1 protein bearing the M2e influenza epitope in Nicotiana benthamiana plants 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:106.
Human papillomavirus 16 (HPV-16) L1 protein has the capacity to self-assemble into capsomers or virus-like particles (VLPs) that are highly immunogenic, allowing their use in vaccine production. Successful expression of HPV-16 L1 protein has been reported in plants, and plant-produced VLPs have been shown to be immunogenic after administration to animals.
We investigated the potential of HPV-16 L1 to act as a carrier of two foreign epitopes from Influenza A virus: (i) M2e2-24, ectodomain of the M2 protein (M2e), that is highly conserved among all influenza A isolates, or (ii) M2e2-9, a shorter version of M2e containing the N-terminal highly conserved epitope, that is common for both M1 and M2 influenza proteins. A synthetic HPV-16 L1 gene optimized with human codon usage was used as a backbone gene to design four chimeric sequences containing either the M2e2-24 or the M2e2-9 epitope in two predicted surface-exposed L1 positions. All chimeric constructs were transiently expressed in plants using the Cowpea mosaic virus-derived expression vector, pEAQ-HT. Chimeras were recognized by a panel of linear and conformation-specific anti HPV-16 L1 MAbs, and two of them also reacted with the anti-influenza MAb. Electron microscopy showed that chimeric proteins made in plants spontaneously assembled in higher order structures, such as VLPs of T = 1 or T = 7 symmetry, or capsomers.
In this study, we report for the first time the transient expression and the self-assembly of a chimeric HPV-16 L1 bearing the M2e influenza epitope in plants, representing also the first record of a successful expression of chimeric HPV-16 L1 carrying an epitope of a heterologous virus in plants. This study further confirms the usefulness of human papillomavirus particles as carriers of exogenous epitopes and their potential relevance for the production in plants of monovalent or multivalent vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3248878  PMID: 22085463
24.  A bacteria colony-based screen for optimal linker combinations in genetically encoded biosensors 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:105.
Fluorescent protein (FP)-based biosensors based on the principle of intramolecular Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) enable the visualization of a variety of biochemical events in living cells. The construction of these biosensors requires the genetic insertion of a judiciously chosen molecular recognition element between two distinct hues of FP. When the molecular recognition element interacts with the analyte of interest and undergoes a conformational change, the ratiometric emission of the construct is altered due to a change in the FRET efficiency. The sensitivity of such biosensors is proportional to the change in ratiometric emission, and so there is a pressing need for methods to maximize the ratiometric change of existing biosensor constructs in order to increase the breadth of their utility.
To accelerate the development and optimization of improved FRET-based biosensors, we have developed a method for function-based high-throughput screening of biosensor variants in colonies of Escherichia coli. We have demonstrated this technology by undertaking the optimization of a biosensor for detection of methylation of lysine 27 of histone H3 (H3K27). This effort involved the construction and screening of 3 distinct libraries: a domain library that included several engineered binding domains isolated by phage-display; a lower-resolution linker library; and a higher-resolution linker library.
Application of this library screening methodology led to the identification of an optimized H3K27-trimethylation biosensor that exhibited an emission ratio change (66%) that was 2.3 × improved relative to that of the initially constructed biosensor (29%).
PMCID: PMC3225322  PMID: 22074568
25.  Selective targeted delivery of the TNF-alpha receptor p75 and uteroglobin to the vasculature of inflamed tissues: a preliminary report 
BMC Biotechnology  2011;11:104.
Ligand-targeted approaches have proven successful in improving the therapeutic index of a number of drugs. We hypothesized that the specific targeting of TNF-alpha antagonists to inflamed tissues could increase drug efficacy and reduce side effects.
Using uteroglobin (UG), a potent anti-inflammatory protein, as a scaffold, we prepared a bispecific tetravalent molecule consisting of the extracellular ligand-binding portion of the human TNF-alpha receptor P75 (TNFRII) and the scFv L19. L19 binds to the ED-B containing fibronectin isoform (B-FN), which is expressed only during angiogenesis processes and during tissue remodeling. B-FN has also been demonstrated in the pannus in rheumatoid arthritis. L19-UG-TNFRII is a stable, soluble homodimeric protein that maintains the activities of both moieties: the immuno-reactivity of L19 and the capability of TNFRII to inhibit TNF-alpha. In vivo bio-distribution studies demonstrated that the molecule selectively accumulated on B-FN containing tissues, showing a very fast clearance from the blood but a very long residence time on B-FN containing tissues. Despite the very fast clearance from the blood, this fusion protein was able to significantly improve the severe symptomatology of arthritis in collagen antibody-induced arthritis (CAIA) mouse model.
The recombinant protein described here, able to selectively deliver the TNF-alpha antagonist TNFRII to inflamed tissues, could yield important contributions for the therapy of degenerative inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC3226451  PMID: 22074550

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