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Production of N α -acetylated thymosin α1 in Escherichia coli

Author(s): Ren Yuantao | Yao Xueqin | Dai Hongmei | Li Shulong | Fang Hongqing | Chen Huipeng | Zhou Changlin

Journal: Microbial Cell Factories
ISSN 1475-2859

Volume: 10;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 26;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: N α -acetylation | thymosin α1 | Spl DnaX intein | RimJ | protein cleavage

Abstract Background Thymosin α1 (Tα1), a 28-amino acid N α -acetylated peptide, has a powerful general immunostimulating activity. Although biosynthesis is an attractive means of large-scale manufacture, to date, Tα1 can only be chemosynthesized because of two obstacles to its biosynthesis: the difficulties in expressing small peptides and obtaining N α -acetylation. In this study, we describe a novel production process for N α -acetylated Tα1 in Escherichia coli. Results To obtain recombinant N α -acetylated Tα1 efficiently, a fusion protein, Tα1-Intein, was constructed, in which Tα1 was fused to the N-terminus of the smallest mini-intein, Spl DnaX (136 amino acids long, from Spirulina platensis), and a His tag was added at the C-terminus. Because Tα1 was placed at the N-terminus of the Tα1-Intein fusion protein, Tα1 could be fully acetylated when the Tα1-Intein fusion protein was co-expressed with RimJ (a known prokaryotic N α -acetyltransferase) in Escherichia coli. After purification by Ni-Sepharose affinity chromatography, the Tα1-Intein fusion protein was induced by the thiols β-mercaptoethanol or d,l-dithiothreitol, or by increasing the temperature, to release Tα1 through intein-mediated N-terminal cleavage. Under the optimal conditions, more than 90% of the Tα1-Intein fusion protein was thiolyzed, and 24.5 mg Tα1 was obtained from 1 L of culture media. The purity was 98% after a series of chromatographic purification steps. The molecular weight of recombinant Tα1 was determined to be 3107.44 Da by mass spectrometry, which was nearly identical to that of the synthetic version (3107.42 Da). The whole sequence of recombinant Tα1 was identified by tandem mass spectrometry and its N-terminal serine residue was shown to be acetylated. Conclusions The present data demonstrate that N α -acetylated Tα1 can be efficiently produced in recombinant E. coli. This bioprocess could be used as an alternative to chemosynthesis for the production of Tα1. The described methodologies may also be helpful for the biosynthesis of similar peptides.
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