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Keywords:

  • economic evaluation;
  • inclusion bodies solubilization;
  • protein refolding;
  • simulated moving bed;
  • size-exclusion chromatography

Abstract

Expression of recombinant proteins in Escherichia coli is normally accompanied by the formation of inclusion bodies (IBs). To obtain the protein product in an active (native) soluble form, the IBs must be first solubilized, and thereafter, the soluble, often denatured and reduced protein must be refolded. Several technically feasible alternatives to conduct IBs solubilization and on-column refolding have been proposed in recent years. However, rarely these on-column refolding alternatives have been evaluated from an economical point of view, questioning the feasibility of their implementation at a preparative scale. The presented study assesses the economic performance of four distinct process alternatives that include pH induced IBs solubilization and protein refolding (pH_IndSR); IBs solubilization using urea, dithiothreitol (DTT), and alkaline pH followed by batch size-exclusion protein refolding; inclusion bodies (IBs) solubilization using urea, DTT, and alkaline pH followed by simulated moving bed (SMB) size-exclusion protein refolding, and IBs solubilization using urea, DTT and alkaline pH followed by batch dilution protein refolding. The economic performance was judged on the basis of the direct fixed capital, and the production cost per unit of product (PC). This work shows that (1) pH_IndSR system is a relatively economical process, because of the low IBs solubilization cost; (2) substituting β-mercaptoethanol for dithiothreithol is an attractive alternative, as it significantly decreases the product cost contribution from the IBs solubilization; and (3) protein refolding by size-exclusion chromatography becomes economically attractive by changing the mode of operation of the chromatographic reactor from batch to continuous using SMB technology. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2011