University of Oulu

Recombinant human collagens : characterization of type II collagen expressed in insect cells and production of types I-III collagen in the yeast Pichia pastoris

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Author: Nokelainen, Minna1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2000
Publish Date: 2000-08-22
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, for public discussion in the Auditorium of the Department of Medical Biochemistry, on September 14th, 2000, at 1 p.m.
Reviewer: Docent Volkmar Günzler
Professor Aarno Palotie


An efficient system for expressing recombinant human collagens is expected to have numerous scientific and medical applications, but this is difficult to achieve because most systems do not have sufficient levels of activity of prolyl 4-hydroxylase, the key enzyme of collagen synthesis.

A recombinant form of human type II collagen, the main structural component of cartilage, was produced here in insect cells by coinfecting them with two baculoviruses, one coding for the proα chains of human type II procollagen, and the other for both the α and β subunits of human prolyl 4-hydroxylase. The amino acid composition of the recombinant form was very similar to that of the non-recombinant protein, with the exception that the hydroxylysine content was very low. The highest expression levels obtained in suspension cultures were 50 mg/l. An additional baculovirus coding for human lysyl hydroxylase was used to express type II collagen with a high hydroxylysine content. Marked differences in the rate of fibril formation in vitro and the morphology of the resulting fibrils were found between the recombinant type II collagens having 2 and 19 hydroxylysine residues/1000 amino acids, the maximal turbidity of the former being reached within 5 min, whereas the absorbance of the latter increased up to about 10 h. In addition, the latter collagen formed thin fibrils, whereas the former produced thick fibrils on a background of thin ones. The data indicate that regulation of the extent of lysine hydroxylation, and consequently of the amounts of hydroxylysine-linked carbohydrate units, may have major effects on collagen fibril formation.

In order to study the expression of recombinant human collagens in yeasts, cDNAs for the proα chains of procollagens of type I, II and III were transformed into a recombinant P. pastoris strain expressing human prolyl 4-hydroxylase subunits. All the P. pastoris strains obtained produced full-length proα chains. Cells coexpressing the proα1(I) chains and prolyl 4-hydroxylase produced homotrimeric type I procollagen molecules, whereas cells coexpressing the proα1(I) and proα2(I) chains and prolyl 4-hydroxylase produced heterotrimeric molecules with the correct 2:1 chain ratio. pCα1(I) and pCα2(I) chains lacking the N propeptides assembled into pCcollagen molecules and yielded correctly folded and fully hydroxylated collagen molecules upon pepsinization. The Tm values of recombinant type I-III collagens produced in shaker flasks were about 38°C and the degree of hydroxylation of proline residues was lower than that in the corresponding non-recombinant collagens. When the recombinant collagens were produced in a 2-litre fermentor equipped with an O2 supply system, the expression levels increased markedly to 0.2–0.6 g/l. In addition, all these collagens were identical in 4-hydroxyproline content to the corresponding non-recombinant proteins, and all of them formed native-type fibrils.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. D, Medica
ISSN-E: 1796-2234
ISBN: 951-42-5738-3
ISBN Print: 951-42-5737-5
Issue: 604
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