• Open Access

Scale-up of hydrophobin-assisted recombinant protein production in tobacco BY-2 suspension cells



Plant suspension cell cultures are emerging as an alternative to mammalian cells for production of complex recombinant proteins. Plant cell cultures provide low production cost, intrinsic safety and adherence to current regulations, but low yields and costly purification technology hinder their commercialization. Fungal hydrophobins have been utilized as fusion tags to improve yields and facilitate efficient low-cost purification by surfactant-based aqueous two-phase separation (ATPS) in plant, fungal and insect cells. In this work, we report the utilization of hydrophobin fusion technology in tobacco bright yellow 2 (BY-2) suspension cell platform and the establishment of pilot-scale propagation and downstream processing including first-step purification by ATPS. Green fluorescent protein-hydrophobin fusion (GFP-HFBI) induced the formation of protein bodies in tobacco suspension cells, thus encapsulating the fusion protein into discrete compartments. Cultivation of the BY-2 suspension cells was scaled up in standard stirred tank bioreactors up to 600 L production volume, with no apparent change in growth kinetics. Subsequently, ATPS was applied to selectively capture the GFP-HFBI product from crude cell lysate, resulting in threefold concentration, good purity and up to 60% recovery. The ATPS was scaled up to 20 L volume, without loss off efficiency. This study provides the first proof of concept for large-scale hydrophobin-assisted production of recombinant proteins in tobacco BY-2 cell suspensions.