Production of recombinant proteins in Mycobacterium smegmatis for structural and functional studies

Protein Sci. 2015 Jan;24(1):1-10. doi: 10.1002/pro.2584. Epub 2014 Nov 13.


Protein production using recombinant DNA technology has a fundamental impact on our understanding of biology through providing proteins for structural and functional studies. Escherichia coli (E. coli) has been traditionally used as the default expression host to over-express and purify proteins from many different organisms. E. coli does, however, have known shortcomings for obtaining soluble, properly folded proteins suitable for downstream studies. These shortcomings are even more pronounced for the mycobacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, with typically only one third of proteins expressed in E. coli produced as soluble proteins. Mycobacterium smegmatis (M. smegmatis) is a closely related and non-pathogenic species that has been successfully used as an expression host for production of proteins from various mycobacterial species. In this review, we describe the early attempts to produce mycobacterial proteins in alternative expression hosts and then focus on available expression systems in M. smegmatis. The advantages of using M. smegmatis as an expression host, its application in structural biology and some practical aspects of protein production are also discussed. M. smegmatis provides an effective expression platform for enhanced understanding of mycobacterial biology and pathogenesis and for developing novel and better therapeutics and diagnostics.

Keywords: Mycobacterium leprae; Mycobacterium smegmatis; recombinant protein; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; expression system; protein production; shuttle vectors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics*
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cloning, Molecular / methods*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mycobacterium / chemistry
  • Mycobacterium / genetics
  • Mycobacterium / metabolism
  • Mycobacterium smegmatis / chemistry
  • Mycobacterium smegmatis / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium smegmatis / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics*
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins

Associated data

  • OMIM/4U3Q