• Fast plasmid based protein expression analysis in insect cells using an automated SplitGFP screen.

      Bleckmann, Maren; Schmelz, Stefan; Schinkowski, Christian; Scrima, Andrea; van den Heuvel, Joop; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016-02-23)
      Recombinant protein expression often presents a bottleneck for the production of proteins for use in many areas of animal-cell biotechnology. Difficult-to-express proteins require the generation of numerous expression constructs, where popular prokaryotic screening systems often fail to identify expression of multi domain or full-length protein constructs. Post-translational modified mammalian proteins require an alternative host system such as insect cells using the Baculovirus Expression Vector System (BEVS). Unfortunately this is time-, labor- and cost-intensive. It is clearly desirable to find an automated and miniaturized fast multi-sample screening method for protein expression in such systems. With this in mind, in this paper a high-throughput initial expression screening method is described using an automated Microcultivation system in conjunction with fast plasmid based transient transfection in insect cells for the efficient generation of protein constructs. The applicability of the system is demonstrated for the difficult to express Nucleotide-binding Oligomerization Domain-containing protein 2 (NOD2). To enable detection of proper protein expression the rather weak plasmid based expression has been improved by a sensitive inline detection system. Here we present the functionality and application of the sensitive SplitGFP (split green fluorescent protein) detection system in insect cells. The successful expression of constructs is monitored by direct measurement of the fluorescence in the BioLector Microcultivation system. Additionally, we show that the results obtained with our plasmid based SplitGFP protein expression screen correlate directly to the level of soluble protein produced in BEVS. In conclusion our automated SplitGFP screen outlines a sensitive, fast and reliable method reducing the time and costs required for identifying the optimal expression construct prior to large scale protein production in baculovirus infected insect cells. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    • Genomic Analysis and Isolation of RNA Polymerase II Dependent Promoters from Spodoptera frugiperda.

      Bleckmann, Maren; Fritz, Markus H-Y; Bhuju, Sabin; Jarek, Michael; Schürig, Margitta; Geffers, Robert; Benes, Vladimir; Besir, Hüseyin; van den Heuvel, Joop; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2015)
      The Baculoviral Expression Vector System (BEVS) is the most commonly used method for high expression of recombinant protein in insect cells. Nevertheless, expression of some target proteins--especially those entering the secretory pathway--provides a severe challenge for the baculovirus infected insect cells, due to the reorganisation of intracellular compounds upon viral infection. Therefore, alternative strategies for recombinant protein production in insect cells like transient plasmid-based expression or stable expression cell lines are becoming more popular. However, the major bottleneck of these systems is the lack of strong endogenous polymerase II dependent promoters, as the strong baculoviral p10 and polH promoters used in BEVS are only functional in presence of the viral transcription machinery during the late phase of infection. In this work we present a draft genome and a transcriptome analysis of Sf21 cells for the identification of the first known endogenous Spodoptera frugiperda promoters. Therefore, putative promoter sequences were identified and selected because of high mRNA level or in analogy to other strong promoters in other eukaryotic organism. The chosen endogenous Sf21 promoters were compared to early viral promoters for their efficiency to trigger eGFP expression using transient plasmid based transfection in a BioLector Microfermentation system. Furthermore, promoter activity was not only shown in Sf21 cells but also in Hi5 cells. The novel endogenous Sf21 promoters were ranked according to their activity and expand the small pool of available promoters for stable insect cell line development and transient plasmid expression in insect cells. The best promoter was used to improve plasmid based transient transfection in insect cells substantially.
    • Identification of Essential Genetic Baculoviral Elements for Recombinant Protein Expression by Transactivation in Sf21 Insect Cells.

      Bleckmann, Maren; Schürig, Margitta; Chen, Fang-Fang; Yen, Zen-Zen; Lindemann, Nils; Meyer, Steffen; Spehr, Johannes; van den Heuvel, Joop; Helmholtz Centre for infection research (HZI), Inhoffenstraße 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2016)
      The Baculovirus Expression Vector System (BEVS) is widely used to produce high amounts of recombinant proteins. Nevertheless, generating recombinant baculovirus in high quality is rather time-consuming and labor-intensive. Alternatively, virus-free expression in insect cells did not achieve similar expression levels for most proteins so far. The transactivation method is a promising approach for protein expression in Sf21 cells. It combines advantages of BEVS and plasmid-based expression by activating strong virus-dependent promoters on a transfected plasmid by baculoviral coinfection. Here, we identified expression elements required for transactivation. Therefore, we designed several vectors comprising different viral promoters or promoter combinations and tested them for eGFP expression using the automated BioLector microcultivation system. Remarkably, only the combination of the very late promoter p10 together with the homologous region 5 (hr5) could boost expression during transactivation. Other elements, like p10 alone or the late viral promoter polH, did not respond to transactivation. A new combination of hr5 and p10 with the strongest immediate early OpMNPV viral promoter OpIE2 improved the yield of eGFP by ~25% in comparison to the previous applied hr5-IE1-p10 expression cassette. Furthermore, we observed a strong influence of the transcription termination sequence and vector backbone on the level of expression. Finally, the expression levels for transactivation, BEVS and solely plasmid-based expression were compared for the marker protein eGFP, underlining the potential of transactivation for fast recombinant protein expression in Sf21 cells. In conclusion, essential elements for transactivation could be identified. The optimal elements were applied to generate an improved vector applicable in virus-free plasmid-based expression, transactivation and BEVS.
    • Identifying parameters to improve the reproducibility of transient gene expression in High Five cells.

      Bleckmann, Maren; Schürig, Margitta; Endres, Michelle; Samuels, Anke; Gebauer, Daniela; Konisch, Nadine; van den Heuvel, Joop; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (PLOS, 2019-01-01)
      Virus-free, transient gene expression (TGE) in High Five cells was recently presented as an efficient protein production method. However, published TGE protocols have not been standardized to a general protocol. Therefore, reproducibility and implementation of the method in other labs remains difficult. The aim of this study is to analyse the parameters determining the reproducibility of the TGE in insect cells. Here, we identified that using linear 40 kDa PEI instead of 25 kDa PEI was one of the most important aspects to improve TGE. Furthermore, DNA amount, DNA:PEI ratio, growth phase of the cells before transfection, passage number, the origin of the High-Five cell isolates and the type of cultivation medium were considered. Interestingly, a correlation of the passage number to the DNA content of single cells (ploidy) and to the transfection efficacy could be shown. The optimal conditions for critical parameters were used to establish a robust TGE method. Finally, we compared the achieved product yields in High Five cells using our improved TGE method with both the baculoviral expression system and TGE in the mammalian HEK293-6E cell line. In conclusion, the presented robust TGE protocol in High Five cells is easy to establish and produces ample amounts of high-quality recombinant protein, bridging the gap in expression level of this method to the well-established mammalian TGE in HEK293 cells as well as to the baculoviral expression vector system (BEVS).