Trehalose expression confers desiccation tolerance on human cells

Nat Biotechnol. 2000 Feb;18(2):168-71. doi: 10.1038/72616.


Many organisms that withstand desiccation express the disaccharide trehalose. We have now expressed the otsA and otsB genes of Escherichia coli, which encode trehalose biosynthetic enzymes, in human primary fibroblasts using a recombinant adenovirus vector. Infected cells produced increased amounts of trehalose with increasing multiplicity of infection (MOI). Human primary fibroblasts expressing trehalose could be maintained in the dry state for up to five days. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy indicated that dry, but viable, human cells contained no detectable water. This study shows that mammalian cells can be engineered to retain viability in the absence of water.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • Desiccation*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Fibroblasts
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Glucosyltransferases / biosynthesis
  • Glucosyltransferases / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared
  • Tissue Preservation*
  • Transgenes
  • Trehalose / biosynthesis*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Trehalose
  • Glucosyltransferases
  • trehalose-6-phosphate synthase