Spider dragline silk proteins in transgenic tobacco leaves: accumulation and field production

Plant Biotechnol J. 2004 Sep;2(5):431-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2004.00087.x.


Spider dragline silk is a unique biomaterial and represents nature's strongest known fibre. As it is almost as strong as many commercial synthetic fibres, it is suitable for use in many industrial and medical applications. The prerequisite for such a widespread use is the cost-effective production in sufficient quantities for commercial fibre manufacturing. Agricultural biotechnology and the production of recombinant dragline silk proteins in transgenic plants offer the potential for low-cost, large-scale production. The purpose of this work was to examine the feasibility of producing the two protein components of dragline silk (MaSp1 and MaSp2) from Nephila clavipes in transgenic tobacco. Two different promoters, the enhanced CaMV 35S promoter (Kay et al., 1987) and a new tobacco cryptic constitutive promoter, tCUP (Foster et al., 1999) were used, in conjunction with a plant secretory signal (PR1b), a translational enhancer (alfalfa mosaic virus, AMV) and an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) retention signal (KDEL), to express the MaSp1 and MaSp2 genes in the leaves of transgenic plants. Both genes expressed successfully and recombinant protein accumulated in transgenic plants grown in both greenhouse and field trials.