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Impact of oxygen supply on rtPA expression in Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3): ammonia effects

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In shake flasks, good oxygen supply tended to decrease rtPA expression in media containing only yeast extract and tryptone, while oxygen limitation would increase rtPA synthesis in the same medium. Our data showed that though the drop of rtPA expression in the 20-ml cultures of LBG or 2YTG was accompanied with a severe acetate accumulation, it was actually caused by low ammonia. The rtPA expression level could be significantly improved by increasing culture ammonium ion up to 500 mM. The effects of exogenous high ammonia on cell growth and rtPA expression were further examined in shake flasks and a 4-l fermentor. The high ammonia had no significant impact on cell growth and oxygen respiratory activity but significantly depressed the activities of glutamine synthetase/glutamate synthase and glutamate dehydrogenase, suggesting that ammonium ion as a nitrogen source improved the protein expression by mediating ammonia-assimilating enzymes. We thus propose in our work that E. coli cells, which were grown to a certain density to produce rtPA, would undergo nitrogen starvation under the low ammonia conditions even when the organic nitrogen sources remained abundant. The scale-up of rtPA production from shake flasks to fermentors could be readily achieved in the media containing rich ammonium ion.

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We thank Shandong Yanglong Biotech. Co., Ltd (Ji’nan, China) for kindly supplying the original rtPA expressing strain, E. coli BL21 (DE3)/pET22b(+)-rtPA. This work was supported by a grant (No. 2009ZX09306) from National Key Technologies R&D Programs of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China.

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Correspondence to Dongzhi Wei.

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Wang, H., Wang, F. & Wei, D. Impact of oxygen supply on rtPA expression in Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3): ammonia effects. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 82, 249–259 (2009).

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  • Escherichia coli
  • Ammonia
  • Scale-up
  • Fed-batch cultivation
  • Recombinant protein expression
  • rtPA