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Keywords:

  • biopharmaceutical manufacturing;
  • bioreactor;
  • gene regulation;
  • microencapsulation;
  • multicistronic expression;
  • quorum sensing;
  • synthetic biology

Summary

Plants and mammals are separated by a huge evolutionary distance. Consequently, biotechnology and genetics have traditionally been divided into ‘green’ and ‘red’. Here, we provide comprehensive evidence that key components of the mammalian transcription, translation and secretion machineries are functional in the model plant Physcomitrella patens. Cross-kingdom compatibility of different expression modalities originally designed for mammalian cells, such as native and synthetic promoters and polyadenylation sites, viral and cellular internal ribosome entry sites, secretion signal peptides and secreted product proteins, and synthetic transactivators and transrepressors, was established. This mammalian expression portfolio enabled constitutive, conditional and autoregulated expression of different product genes in a multicistronic expression format, optionally adjusted by various trigger molecules, such as butyrolactones, macrolide antibiotics and ethanol. Capitalizing on a cross-kingdom-compatible expression platform, we pioneered a prototype biopharmaceutical manufacturing scenario using microencapsulated transgenic P. patens protoplasts cultivated in a Wave Bioreactor. Vascular endothelial growth factor 121 (VEGF121) titres matched those typically achieved by standard protonema populations grown in stirred-tank bioreactors. The full compatibility of mammalian expression systems in P. patens further promotes the use of moss as a cost-effective alternative for the manufacture of complex biopharmaceuticals, and as a valuable host system to advance synthetic biology in plants.