Applied microbiology and biotechnology

A combinatorial approach of N-terminus blocking and codon optimization strategies to enhance the soluble expression of recombinant hIL-7 in E. coli fed-batch culture.

PMID 27342246


Human interleukin-7 (hIL-7) is a therapeutically important cytokine involved in lymphocyte development and survival. In previous reports, a uniformly poor expression of hIL-7 has been shown in Escherichia coli host with the problem of inclusion body formation. In this study, the role of codon optimization and N-terminus blocking using various solubility enhancer fusion tags was explored to improve its soluble expression. The use of codon optimization strategy improved its expression to 80 ± 5 mg/L at shake flask level. The utilization of pelB leader sequence resulted in an unprocessed protein in the form of cytoplasmic inclusion bodies with lower expression yields. The N-terminus fusion of small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO), thioredoxin (Trx), and NusA tags increased the expression in the range of 90-140 mg/L, where >90 % of the fusion protein was obtained in soluble form. The fed-batch fermentation of SUMO-tagged hIL-7 protein was optimized at bioreactor level, where a high volumetric product concentration of 2.65 g/L was achieved by controlling the plasmid segregation instability using high antibiotic concentration. The specific product yield (Y