Commercial production of aprotinin in transgenic maize seeds


The development of genetic transformation technology for plants has stimulated an interest in using transgenic plants as a novel manufacturing system for producing different classes of proteins of industrial and pharmaceutical value. In this regard, we report the generation and characterization of transgenic maize lines producing recombinant aprotinin. The transgenic aprotinin lines recovered were transformed with the aprotinin gene using the bar gene as a selectable marker. The bar and aprotinin genes were introduced into immature maize embryos via particle bombardment. Aprotinin gene expression was driven by the maize ubiquitin promoter and protein accumulation was targeted to the extracellular matrix. One line that showed a high level of aprotinin expression was characterized in detail. The protein accumulates primarily in the embryo of the seed. Southern blot analysis showed that the line had at least 20 copies of the bar and aprotinin genes. Further genetic analysis revealed that numerous plants derived from this transgenic line had a large range of levels of expression of the aprotinin gene (0–0.069%) of water-soluble protein in T2 seeds. One plant lineage that showed stable expression after 4 selfing generations was recovered from the parental transgenic line. This line showed an accumulation of the protein in seeds that was comparable to the best T2 lines, and the recombinant aprotinin could be effectively recovered and purified from seeds. Biochemical analysis of the purified aprotinin from seeds revealed that the recombinant aprotinin had the same molecular weight, N-terminal amino acid sequence, isoelectric point, and trypsin inhibition activity as native aprotinin. The demonstration that the recombinant aprotinin protein purified from transgenic maize seeds has biochemical and functional properties identical to its native counterpart provides a proof-of-concept example for producing new generation products for the pharmaceutical industry.

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Correspondence to John A. Howard.

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Zhong, GY., Peterson, D., Delaney, D.E. et al. Commercial production of aprotinin in transgenic maize seeds. Molecular Breeding 5, 345–356 (1999).

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  • aprotinin
  • heterologous protein
  • transgenic maize
  • pharmaceutical protein
  • transgene genetics
  • transgene stability