Optimisation of contained Nicotiana tabacum cultivation for the production of recombinant protein pharmaceuticals
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Nicotiana tabacum is emerging as a crop of choice for production of recombinant protein pharmaceuticals. Although there is significant commercial expertise in tobacco farming, different cultivation practices are likely to be needed when the objective is to optimise protein expression, yield and extraction, rather than the traditional focus on biomass and alkaloid production. Moreover, pharmaceutical transgenic tobacco plants are likely to be grown initially within a controlled environment, the parameters for which have yet to be established. Here, the growth characteristics and functional recombinant protein yields for two separate transgenic tobacco plant lines were investigated. The impacts of temperature, day-length, compost nitrogen content, radiation and plant density were examined. Temperature was the only environmental variable to affect IgG concentration in the plants, with higher yields observed in plants grown at lower temperature. In contrast, temperature, supplementary radiation and plant density all affected the total soluble protein yield in the same plants. Transgenic plants expressing a second recombinant protein (cyanovirin-N) responded differently to IgG transgenic plants to elevated temperature, with an increase in cyanovirin-N concentration, although the effect of the environmental variables on total soluble protein yields was the same as the IgG plants. Planting density and radiation levels were important factors affecting variability of the two recombinant protein yields in transgenic plants. Phenotypic differences were observed between the two transgenic plant lines and non-transformed N. tabacum, but the effect of different growing conditions was consistent between the three lines. Temperature, day length, radiation intensity and planting density all had a significant impact on biomass production. Taken together, the data suggest that recombinant protein yield is not affected substantially by environmental factors other than growth temperature. Overall productivity is therefore correlated to biomass production, although other factors such as purification burden, extractability protein stability and quality also need to be considered in the optimal design of cultivation conditions.
KeywordsContained cultivation Nicotiana tabacum Molecular farming Recombinant antibody
The authors would like to acknowledge DTI (TP/3/BIO/6/I/17346), Plant Vaccines Ltd., the EU Pharma-Planta Integrated Project and the Hotung Foundation for supporting the project. Also, Dr. Barry O’Keefe for providing CV-N specific antiserum, and Dr. Gillian Arnold for statistical support. We also thank Mick Buss for supervising the horticultural operations and Mike Davies for technical support at EMR.
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