Prolonging Cell-Free Protein Synthesis by Selective Reagent Additions



Factors causing the early cessation of protein synthesis have been studied in a cell-free system from Escherichia coli. We discovered that phosphoenol pyruvate (PEP), the secondary energy source for ATP regeneration, and several amino acids are rapidly degraded during the cell-free protein synthesis reaction. The degradation of such compounds takes place even in the absence of protein synthesis. This degradation severely reduces the capacity for protein synthesis. The lost potency was completely recovered when the reaction mixture was supplied with additional PEP and amino acids. Of the 20 amino acids, only arginine, cysteine, and tryptophan were required to restore system activity. Through repeated additions of PEP, arginine, cysteine,and tryptophan, the duration of protein synthesis was greatly extended. In this fed-batch reaction, after a 2 h incubation, the level of cell-free synthesized chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (CAT) reached 350 μg/mL, which is 3.5 times the yield of the batch reaction. Addition of fresh magnesium further extended the protein synthesis. As a result, through coordinated additions of PEP, arginine, cysteine, tryptophan, and magnesium, the final concentration of cell-free synthesized CAT increased more than 4-fold compared to a batch reaction. SDS-PAGE analysis of such a fed-batch reaction produced an obvious band of CAT upon Coomassie Blue staining.