• mammalian cell culture;
  • recombinant protein synthesis;
  • human vaccinia virus;
  • translation enhancing elements


Many applications in biotechnology require human proteins generated from human cells. Stable cell lines commonly used for this purpose are difficult to develop, and scaling to large numbers of proteins can be problematic. Transient expression can circumvent this problem, but protein yields are generally too low for most applications. Here we report a novel 37-nucleotide leader sequence that promotes rapid and high transgene expression in mammalian cells. This sequence was identified by in vitro selection and functions in a transient vaccinia-based cytoplasmic expression system. Vectors containing this sequence produce microgram levels of protein in just 6 h from a small-scale expression in 106 cells. This level of protein synthesis is ideal for high throughput production of human proteins, and could be scaled to generate milligram quantities of protein. The technology is compatible with a broad range of cell lines, accepts plasmid and linear DNA, and functions with viruses that are approved for use under BSL1 conditions. We suggest that these advantages provide a powerful method for generating human protein in mammalian cells.