Hydrophobins (HFBs) are small surface-active proteins secreted by filamentous fungi. Being amphiphilic, they spontaneously form layers that convert surfaces from hydrophilic to hydrophobic and vice versa. We have compared properties of the class II HFB4 and HFB7 from Trichoderma virens as produced in Escherichia coli and Pichia pastoris. Since the production in E. coli required denaturation/renaturation steps because of inclusion bodies, this treatment was also applied to HFBs produced and secreted in yeast. The protein yields for both systems were similar. Both HFBs produced by E. coli proved less active on PET compared to HFBs produced in P. pastoris. HFBs produced in E. coli decreased the hydrophilicity of glass the most, which correlated with the adsorption of a more dense protein layer on glass compared to HFBs produced in P. pastoris. The hydrophobins produced in P. pastoris formed highly structured monolayers. Layers of hydrophobins produced in E. coli were less prone to self-organization. Our data suggests that irrespective of the production host, the HFBs could be used in various applications that are based on their surface activity. However, the production host and the subsequent purification procedure will influence the stability of HFB layers. In the area of high-value biomedical devices and nanomaterials, where the formation of highly ordered protein monolayers is essential, our results point to P. pastoris as the preferred production host. Furthermore, the choice of an appropriate hydrophobin for a given application appears to be equally important.
Keywords: Atomic force microscopy (AFM); Trichoderma; circular dichroism (CD); dynamic light scattering (DLS); fungi; hydrophobin (HFB); quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D); recombinant protein production; small secreted cysteine rich proteins (SSCPs); water contact angle (WCA).
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