By Julia Cino, PhD
Over the last several decades, geneticists have learned how to manipulate DNA to identify, excise, move and place genes into a variety of organisms that are quite different genetically from the source organism. A major use for many of these recombinant organisms is to produce proteins. Since many proteins are of immense commercial value, numerous studies have focused on finding ways to produce them inexpensively, easily and in a fully functional form.
The production of a functional protein is intimately related to the cellular machinery of the organism producing the protein. E. coli has been the factory of choice for the expression of many proteins because its genome has been fully mapped and the organism is easy to handle; grows rapidly; requires an inexpensive, easy-to-prepare medium for growth; and secretes protein into the medium which facilitates recovery of the protein. However, E. coli is a prokaryote and lacks intracellular organelles, such as the endoplasmic reticulum and the golgi apparatus that are present in eukaryotes, which are responsible for modifications of the proteins being produced. Many eukaryotic proteins can be produced in E. coli but are produced in a nonfunctional, unfinished form, since glycosylation or post-translational modifications do not occur. Therefore, researchers have recently turned to eukaryotic yeast and mammalian expression systems for protein production.
Pichia pastoris Expression System
One such eukaryotic yeast is the methanoltrophic Pichia pastoris. Pichia pastoris has been developed to be an outstanding host for the production of foreign proteins since its alcohol oxidase promoter was isolated and cloned; its transformation was first reported in 1985 [1,2]. Compared to other eukary