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Protein folding and conformational stress in microbial cells producing recombinant proteins: a host comparative overview

Brigitte Gasser1, Markku Saloheimo2, Ursula Rinas3, Martin Dragosits1, Escarlata Rodríguez-Carmona4, Kristin Baumann5, Maria Giuliani6, Ermenegilda Parrilli6, Paola Branduardi7, Christine Lang8, Danilo Porro7, Pau Ferrer5, Maria Luisa Tutino6, Diethard Mattanovich1* and Antonio Villaverde4

Author Affiliations

1 University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna, Department of Biotechnology, Vienna, Austria

2 VTT Technical Research Centre, Espoo, Finland

3 Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany

4 Autonomous University of Barcelona, Institute for Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Department of Genetics and Microbiology, and CIBER-BBN Network in Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine, Barcelona, Spain

5 Autonomous University of Barcelona, Department of Chemical Engineering, Barcelona, Spain

6 University of Naples Federico II, School of Biotechnological Sciences, Naples, Italy

7 University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Biotechnology and Bioscience, Milan, Italy

8 Technical University Berlin, Faculty III, Institute for Microbiology and Genetics, Berlin, Germany

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Microbial Cell Factories 2008, 7:11  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-7-11

Published: 4 April 2008


Different species of microorganisms including yeasts, filamentous fungi and bacteria have been used in the past 25 years for the controlled production of foreign proteins of scientific, pharmacological or industrial interest. A major obstacle for protein production processes and a limit to overall success has been the abundance of misfolded polypeptides, which fail to reach their native conformation. The presence of misfolded or folding-reluctant protein species causes considerable stress in host cells. The characterization of such adverse conditions and the elicited cell responses have permitted to better understand the physiology and molecular biology of conformational stress. Therefore, microbial cell factories for recombinant protein production are depicted here as a source of knowledge that has considerably helped to picture the extremely rich landscape of in vivo protein folding, and the main cellular players of this complex process are described for the most important cell factories used for biotechnological purposes.