An inverse metabolic engineering approach for the design of an improved host platform for over-expression of recombinant proteins in Escherichia coli
School of Biotechnology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Microbial Cell Factories 2012, 11:93 doi:10.1186/1475-2859-11-93Published: 3 July 2012
A useful goal for metabolic engineering would be to generate non-growing but metabolically active quiescent cells which would divert the metabolic fluxes towards product formation rather than growth. However, for products like recombinant proteins, which are intricately coupled to the growth process it is difficult to identify the genes that need to be knocked-out/knocked-in to get this desired phenotype. To circumvent this we adopted an inverse metabolic engineering strategy which would screen for the desired phenotype and thus help in the identification of genetic targets which need to be modified to get overproducers of recombinant protein. Such quiescent cells would obviate the need for high cell density cultures and increase the operational life span of bioprocesses.
A novel strategy for generating a library, consisting of randomly down regulated metabolic pathways in E. coli was designed by cloning small genomic DNA fragments in expression vectors. Some of these DNA fragments got inserted in the reverse orientation thereby generating anti-sense RNA upon induction. These anti-sense fragments would hybridize to the sense mRNA of specific genes leading to gene ‘silencing’. This library was first screened for slow growth phenotype and subsequently for enhanced over-expression ability. Using Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) as a reporter protein on second plasmid, we were able to identify metabolic blocks which led to significant increase in expression levels. Thus down-regulating the ribB gene (3, 4 dihydroxy-2-butanone-4-phosphate synthase) led to a 7 fold increase in specific product yields while down regulating the gene kdpD (histidine kinase) led to 3.2 fold increase in specific yields.
We have designed a high throughput screening approach which is a useful tool in the repertoire of reverse metabolic engineering strategies for the generation of improved hosts for recombinant protein expression.