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Abstract

Various strategies aimed at improving IgG1 antibody accumulation in transgenic tobacco cell and organ cultures were tested. The form of tissue had a significant effect on antibody levels; shooty teratomas were less productive than hairy roots or suspended cells. Although there were several disadvantages associated with hairy roots compared with suspensions, such as slower growth, slower antibody production, and formation of a greater number of antibody fragments, the roots exhibited superior long-term culture stability. Antibody accumulation in hairy root cultures was improved by increasing the dissolved oxygen tension to 150% air saturation, indicating the need for effective oxygen transfer in root reactors used for antibody production. Preventing N-linked glycosylation using tunicamycin or inhibition of subsequent glycan processing by castanospermine reduced antibody accumulation in the biomass and/or medium in cell suspensions. Loss of antibody from the cultures after its secretion and release into the medium was identified as a major problem. This effect was minimized by inhibiting protein transport in the secretory pathway using Brefeldin A, resulting in antibody accumulation levels up to 2.7 times those in untreated cells. Strategies for protecting secreted antibody, such as addition of poly(vinylpyrrolidone) and periodic harvesting from the medium using hydroxyapatite resin, also increased antibody titers. The mechanisms responsible for the disappearance of antibody from plant culture media were not clearly identified; degradation by proteases and conformational modification of the antibody, such as formation of aggregates, provided an explanation for some but not all the phenomena observed. This work demonstrates that the manipulation and control of culture conditions and metabolic processes in plant tissue cultures can be used to improve the production of foreign proteins. However, loss of secreted antibody from plant culture medium is a significant problem that may limit the feasibility of using product recovery from the medium to reduce downstream processing costs relative to agricultural systems.