PloS one

Expression and subcellular targeting of human complement factor C5a in Nicotiana species.

PMID 23285250


We evaluated transgenic tobacco plants as an alternative to Escherichia coli for the production of recombinant human complement factor 5a (C5a). C5a has not been expressed in plants before and is highly unstable in vivo in its native form, so it was necessary to establish the most suitable subcellular targeting strategy. We used the strong and constitutive CaMV 35S promoter to drive transgene expression and compared three different subcellular compartments. The yields of C5a in the T(0) transgenic plants were low in terms of the proportion of total soluble protein (TSP) when targeted to the apoplast (0.0002% TSP) or endoplasmic reticulum (0.0003% TSP) but was one order of magnitude higher when targeted to the vacuole (0.001% TSP). The yields could be increased by conventional breeding (up to 0.014% TSP in the T₂ generation). C5a accumulated to the same level in seeds and leaves when targeted to the apoplast but was up to 1.7-fold more abundant in the seeds when targeted to the ER or vacuole, although this difference was less striking in the better-performing lines. When yields were calculated as an amount per gram fresh weight of transgenic plant tissue, the vacuole targeting strategy was clearly more efficient in seeds, reaching 35.8 µg C5a per gram of fresh seed weight compared to 10.62 µg C5a per gram fresh weight of leaves. Transient expression of C5aER and C5aVac in N. benthamiana, using MagnICON vectors, reached up to 0.2% and 0.7% of TSP, respectively, but was accompanied by cytotoxic effects and induced leaf senescence. Western blot of the plant extracts revealed a band matching the corresponding glycosylated native protein and the bioassay demonstrated that recombinant C5a was biologically active.