BMC biotechnology

Production and purification of polymerization-competent HIV-1 capsid protein p24 (CA) in NiCo21(DE3) Escherichia coli.

PMID 24304876


HIV genome is packaged and organized in a conical capsid, which is made up of ~1,500 copies of the viral capsid protein p24 (CA). Being a primary structural component and due to its critical roles in both late and early stages of the HIV replication cycle, CA has attracted increased interest as a drug discovery target in recent years. Drug discovery studies require large amounts of highly pure and biologically active protein. It is therefore desirable to establish a simple and reproducible process for efficient production of HIV-1 CA. In this work, 6-His-tagged wild type CA from HIV-1 (NL4.3) was expressed in rare tRNA-supplemented NiCo21(DE3) Escherichia coli, and its production was studied in shake flask culture condition of expression. Influences of various key cultivation parameters were examined to identify optimal conditions for HIV-1 CA production. It was found that a culture temperature of 22°C and induction with 0.05 mM IPTG at the early stage of growth were ideal, leading to a maximum biomass yield when grown in Super broth supplemented with 1% glucose. With optimized culture conditions, a final biomass concentration of ~27.7 g L⁻¹ (based on optical density) was obtained in 12 hours post-induction, leading to a yield of about ~170 mg L⁻¹ HIV-1 CA. A two-step purification strategy (chitin beads + IMAC) was employed, which efficiently removed metal affinity resin-binding bacterial proteins that contaminate recombinant His-tagged protein preparation, and resulted in highly pure HIV-1 CA. The purified protein was capable of polymerization when tested in an in vitro polymerization assay. By using this optimized expression and purification procedure, milligram amounts of highly pure and polymerization-competent recombinant HIV-1 CA can be produced at the lab-scale and thus used for further biochemical studies.