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Open Access Research

Active inclusion bodies of acid phosphatase PhoC: aggregation induced by GFP fusion and activities modulated by linker flexibility

Ziliang Huang1, Chong Zhang1, Shuo Chen12, Fengchun Ye1 and Xin-Hui Xing1*

Author Affiliations

1 Key Laboratory for Industrial Biocatalysis, Ministry of Education, Department of Chemical Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084, China

2 Current address: Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-8656, Japan

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Microbial Cell Factories 2013, 12:25  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-12-25

Published: 14 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Biologically active inclusion bodies (IBs) have gained much attention in recent years. Fusion with IB-inducing partner has been shown to be an efficient strategy for generating active IBs. To make full use of the advantages of active IBs, one of the key issues will be to improve the activity yield of IBs when expressed in cells, which would need more choices on IB-inducing fusion partners and approaches for engineering IBs. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) has been reported to aggregate when overexpressed, but GFP fusion has not been considered as an IB-inducing approach for these fusion proteins so far. In addition, the role of linker in fusion proteins has been shown to be important for protein characteristics, yet impact of linker on active IBs has never been reported.

Results

Here we report that by fusing GFP and acid phosphatase PhoC via a linker region, the resultant PhoC-GFPs were expressed largely as IBs. These IBs show high levels of specific fluorescence and specific PhoC activities (phosphatase and phosphotransferase), and can account for up to over 80% of the total PhoC activities in the cells. We further demonstrated that the aggregation of GFP moiety in the fusion protein plays an essential role in the formation of PhoC-GFP IBs. In addition, PhoC-GFP IBs with linkers of different flexibility were found to exhibit different levels of activities and ratios in the cells, suggesting that the linker region can be utilized to manipulate the characteristics of active IBs.

Conclusions

Our results show that active IBs of PhoC can be generated by GFP fusion, demonstrating for the first time the potential of GFP fusion to induce active IB formation of another soluble protein. We also show that the linker sequence in PhoC-GFP fusion proteins plays an important role on the regulation of IB characteristics, providing an alternative and important approach for engineering of active IBs with the goal of obtaining high activity yield of IBs.

Keywords:
Active inclusion bodies; Acid phosphatase; Green fluorescent protein; Linker flexibility; Linker engineering