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Modeling and measuring intracellular fluxes of secreted recombinant protein in Pichia pastoris with a novel 34S labeling procedure

Martin Pfeffer1, Michael Maurer12*, Gunda Köllensperger34, Stephan Hann34, Alexandra B Graf2 and Diethard Mattanovich14

Author Affiliations

1 University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Department of Biotechnology, Muthgasse 18, 1190 Vienna, Austria

2 University of Applied Sciences FH-Campus Vienna, School of Bioengineering, Muthgasse 18, 1190 Vienna, Austria

3 University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Department of Chemistry, Muthgasse 18, 1190 Vienna, Austria

4 Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB GmbH), Muthgasse 11, 1190 Vienna, Austria

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Microbial Cell Factories 2011, 10:47  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-10-47

Published: 26 June 2011



The budding yeast Pichia pastoris is widely used for protein production. To determine the best suitable strategy for strain improvement, especially for high secretion, quantitative data of intracellular fluxes of recombinant protein are very important. Especially the balance between intracellular protein formation, degradation and secretion defines the major bottleneck of the production system. Because these parameters are different for unlimited growth (shake flask) and carbon-limited growth (bioreactor) conditions, they should be determined under "production like" conditions. Thus labeling procedures must be compatible with minimal production media and the usage of bioreactors. The inorganic and non-radioactive 34S labeled sodium sulfate meets both demands.


We used a novel labeling method with the stable sulfur isotope 34S, administered as sodium sulfate, which is performed during chemostat culivations. The intra- and extracellular sulfur 32 to 34 ratios of purified recombinant protein, the antibody fragment Fab3H6, are measured by HPLC-ICP-MS. The kinetic model described here is necessary to calculate the kinetic parameters from sulfur ratios of consecutive samples as well as for sensitivity analysis. From the total amount of protein produced intracellularly (143.1 μg g-1 h-1 protein per yeast dry mass and time) about 58% are degraded within the cell, 35% are secreted to the exterior and 7% are inherited to the daughter cells.


A novel 34S labeling procedure that enables in vivo quantification of intracellular fluxes of recombinant protein under "production like" conditions is described. Subsequent sensitivity analysis of the fluxes by using MATLAB, indicate the most promising approaches for strain improvement towards increased secretion.