Promoter engineering to optimize recombinant periplasmic Fab' fragment production in Escherichia coli

Biotechnol Prog. 2016 Jul 8;32(4):840-7. doi: 10.1002/btpr.2273. Epub 2016 May 6.


Fab' fragments have become an established class of biotherapeutic over the last two decades. Likewise, developments in synthetic biology are providing ever more powerful techniques for designing bacterial genes, gene networks and entire genomes that can be used to improve industrial performance of cells used for production of biotherapeutics. We have previously observed significant leakage of an exogenous therapeutic Fab' fragment into the growth medium during high cell density cultivation of an Escherichia coli production strain. In this study we sought to apply a promoter engineering strategy to address the issue of Fab' fragment leakage and its consequent bioprocess challenges. We used site directed mutagenesis to convert the Ptac promoter, present in the plasmid, pTTOD-A33 Fab', to a Ptic promoter which has been shown by others to direct expression at a 35% reduced rate compared to Ptac . We characterized the resultant production trains in which either Ptic or Ptac promoters direct Fab' fragment expression. The Ptic promoter strain showed a 25-30% reduction in Fab' expression relative to the original Ptac strain. Reduced Fab' leakage and increased viability over the course of a fed-batch fermentation were also observed for the Ptic promoter strain. We conclude that cell design steps such as the Ptac to Ptic promoter conversion reported here, can yield significant process benefit and understanding with respect to periplasmic Fab' fragment production. It remains an open question as to whether the influence of transgene expression on periplasmic retention is mediated by global metabolic burden effects or periplasm overcapacity. © 2016 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 32:840-847, 2016.

Keywords: Fab′ fragment; cell engineering; periplasm; promoter engineering.

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / cytology
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Genetic Engineering*
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments / biosynthesis*
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments / chemistry
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Periplasm / chemistry
  • Periplasm / genetics
  • Periplasm / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics*
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism


  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments
  • Recombinant Proteins