The Development Of Microalgae As A Bioreactor System For The Production Of Recombinant Proteins

Walker, Tara L. (2004) The Development Of Microalgae As A Bioreactor System For The Production Of Recombinant Proteins. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Dunaliella, a genus of unicellular, biflagellate green algae, is one of the most studied microalgae for mass culture and is of commercial importance as a source of natural -carotene. Dunaliella species have the desirable properties of halotolerance and photoautotrophy that makes their large-scale culture simple and cheap using resources unsuitable for conventional agriculture. The ease and cost-effectiveness of culture makes Dunaliella a desirable target for increased production of natural compounds by metabolic engineering or for exploitation as biological factories for the synthesis of novel high-value compounds. However, the lack of efficient genetic transformation systems has been a major limitation in the manipulation of these microalgae.

In chapter four we describe the development of a nuclear transformation system for Dunaliella tertiolecta. The gene encoding the phleomycin-binding protein from Streptoalloteichus hindustanus, was chosen as the selectable marker as this protein retains activity at high salt concentrations. To drive expression of the chosen selectable marker, two highly expressed Dunaliella tertiolecta RbcS genes and their associated 5' and 3' regulatory regions were isolated and characterised (chapter three). Dunaliella transformation cassettes containing the RbcS promoter and terminator regions flanking the ble antibiotic resistance gene were constructed. These expression cassettes were tested in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cells and found to drive expression of the ble gene in this heterologous system. This study also demonstrated that truncation of both the D. tertiolecta RbcS1 and RbcS2 regulatory regions significantly increases the expression of the ble gene in C. reinhardtii cells. To determine if the foreign DNA could stably integrate into the Dunaliella genome, four transformation methods: microprojectile bombardment, glass bead-mediated transformation, PEG-mediated transformation and electroporation were tested and a number of parameters varied. Southern blot analysis revealed that the plasmid DNA transiently entered the Dunaliella cells following electroporation but was rapidly degraded. Following electroporation, one stably transformed Dunaliella line was recovered. This is the first demonstration of the stable transformation of this alga.

Chloroplast transformation is becoming a favoured method for the production of recombinant proteins in plants, as levels of heterologous protein are often higher than those achieved by transforming the nucleus. The Dunaliella chloroplast genome has not been genetically characterised, and thus there were no existing promoter and terminator sequences or sequences of intergenic regions that could be used for vectors in transformation of the chloroplast. Therefore, this study aimed to isolate and characterise promoters of highly expressed genes and matching terminators capable of driving transgene expression, and also to characterise intergenic regions that would be suitable insertion sites for the vector construct (chapter five). The complete gene sequence of two highly expressed Dunaliella chloroplast genes psbB and rbcL including the promoter and terminator regions as well as the coding sequence of the psbA gene were cloned and sequenced. In addition, the psbA gene is useful as a selectable marker as introduced mutations confer resistance to the herbicide 3-(3,4-Dichlorophenyl)-1,1-Dimethylurea (DCMU). Two homologous transformation constructs based on mutated psbA genes were developed and tested using microprojectile bombardment. A number of parameters were tested including: the size of the gold microprojectile particle, the distance of the plates from the point of discharge, plating onto membranes or filter paper, helium pressure, addition of an osmoticum to the medium and recovery time. Although no chloroplast transformants were recovered in this study, these homologous recombination constructs should prove useful in the development of a chloroplast transformation protocol.

The other major component of this study was to investigate the use of microalgae as an expression system for the production of recombinant proteins. Transformation of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a species related to Dunaliella, is well developed. In chapter six, this study examined the expression of two human proteins, -lactalbumin and IGF-1 in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Plasmids containing the C. reinhardtii RbcS2 promoter upstream of the cDNAs of these two proteins were introduced into C. reinhardtii cells using glass-bead mediated transformation. Transgenic C. reinhardtii lines were generated and shown to contain the transgenes by PCR and Southern hybridisation. RT- PCR and northern hybridisation were subsequently used to demonstrate that the transgenes were transcriptionally active. The transcripts however, could only be detected by RT-PCR indicating that the genes were transcribed at low levels. Accumulation of the -lactalbumin protein could not be demonstrated, suggesting that although the transgenes were transcribed, they were either not translated or translated at levels below the sensitivity of western blot analysis or that any protein produced was rapidly degraded. Previous studies have indicated that in microalgae codon usage is vital in translation of the foreign protein. Codon modification of the IGF-I and -lactalbumin genes should lead to higher levels of protein accumulation.

This study reports the first successful stable nuclear transformation of Dunaliella tertiolecta. Therefore it is now feasible that Dunaliella can be examined as a bioreactor for the expression of recombinant proteins. In addition, two chloroplast genes (psbB and rbcL) and their corresponding promoters and terminators have been characterised and a selectable marker cassette based on the mutated psbA gene constructed.

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ID Code: 15905
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Collet, Christopher & Dale, James
Keywords: bioreactor, microalgae, Dunaliella tertiolecta, RbcS, promoter, chloroplast, nuclear, transformation, electroporation, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, -lactalbumin, IGF-I
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Department: Faculty of Science
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 Tara L. Walker
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:52
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:40

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