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Applied and Environmental Microbiology


Biological Sciences









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The methylotrophic yeast Pichia pastoris has been utilized for heterologous protein expression for over 30 years. Because P. pastoris secretes few of its own proteins, the exported recombinant protein is the major polypeptide in the extracellular medium, making purification relatively easy. Unfortunately, some recombinant proteins intended for secretion are retained within the cell. A mutant strain isolated in our laboratory, containing a disruption of the BGS13 gene, displayed elevated levels of secretion for a variety of reporter proteins. The Bgs13 peptide (Bgs13p) is similar to the Saccharomyces cerevisiae protein kinase C 1 protein (Pkc1p), but its specific mode of action is currently unclear. To illuminate differences in the secretion mechanism between the wild-type (wt) strain and the bgs13 strain, we determined that the disrupted bgs13 gene expressed a truncated protein that had reduced protein kinase C activity and a different location in the cell, compared to the wt protein. Because the Pkc1p of baker’s yeast plays a significant role in cell wall integrity, we investigated the sensitivity of the mutant strain’s cell wall to growth antagonists and extraction by dithiothreitol, determining that the bgs13 strain cell wall suffered from inherent structural problems although its porosity was normal. A proteomic investigation of the bgs13 strain secretome and cell wall-extracted peptides demonstrated that, compared to its wt parent, the bgs13 strain also displayed increased release of an array of normally secreted, endogenous proteins, as well as endoplasmic reticulum-resident chaperone proteins, suggesting that Bgs13p helps regulate the unfolded protein response and protein sorting on a global scale. IMPORTANCE The yeast Pichia pastoris is used as a host system for the expression of recombinant proteins. Many of these products, including antibodies, vaccine antigens, and therapeutic proteins such as insulin, are currently on the market or in late stages of development. However, one major weakness is that sometimes these proteins are not secreted from the yeast cell efficiently, which impedes and raises the cost of purification of these vital proteins. Our laboratory has isolated a mutant strain of Pichia pastoris that shows enhanced secretion of many proteins. The mutant produces a modified version of Bgs13p. Our goal is to understand how the change in the Bgs13p function leads to improved secretion. Once the Bgs13p mechanism is illuminated, we should be able to apply this understanding to engineer new P. pastoris strains that efficiently produce and secrete life-saving recombinant proteins, providing medical and economic benefits.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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