Expression and purification of recombinant proteins from Escherichia coli: Comparison of an elastin-like polypeptide fusion with an oligohistidine fusion



Thermally responsive elastin like polypeptides (ELPs) can be used to purify proteins from Escherichia coli culture when proteins are expressed as a fusion with an ELP. Nonchromatographic purification of ELP fusion proteins, termed inverse transition cycling (ITC), exploits the reversible soluble–insoluble phase transition behavior imparted by the ELP tag. Here, we quantitatively compare the expression and purification of ELP and oligohistidine fusions of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT), blue fluorescent protein (BFP), thioredoxin (Trx), and calmodulin (CalM) from both a 4-h culture with chemical induction of the plasmid-borne fusion protein gene and a 24-h culture without chemical induction. The total protein content and functional activity were quantified at each ITC purification step. For CAT, BFP, and Trx, the 24-h noninduction culture of ELP fusion proteins results in a sevenfold increase in the yield of each fusion protein compared to that obtained by the 4-h–induced culture, and the calculated target protein yield is similar to that of their equivalent oligohistidine fusion. For these proteins, ITC purification of fusion proteins also results in ∼75% recovery of active fusion protein, similar to affinity chromatography. Compared to chromatographic purification, however, ITC is inexpensive, requires no specialized equipment or reagents, and because ITC is a batch purification process, it is easily scaled up to accommodate larger culture volumes or scaled down and multiplexed for high-throughput, microscale purification; thus, potentially impacting both high-throughput protein expression and purification for proteomics and large scale, cost-effective industrial bioprocessing of pharmaceutically relevant proteins.