A study of the expression of a protein proteinase inhibitor from sweet corn
Sweet Corn Inhibitor (SCI), a small (11811Da.) protein from the seeds of opaque-2 corn is a potent and specific inhibitor of trypsin and the activated Hageman Factor (Factor βXIIa) of the human blood plasma coagulation system. With the eventual aim of obtaining insight into the structure- function relationships of the selective SCI-pXIIa interaction, a synthetic gene for SCI was cloned into Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) and Escherichia coli (E.coli) expression systems in an attempt to obtain overexpression of the recombinant gene product. The establishment of functional expression, together with an isolation and purification procedure for SCI would provide a system for obtaining selected reactive-site mutants of SCI by cassette- and oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis. A yeast secretion vector for a truncated form of SCI (tSCI) was constructed by cloning the gene for α-factor prepro-tSCI fusion, downstream to the α-mating factor (MFα1) promoter of yeast. Yeast transformants containing the expression vector failed to express and secrete the desired product. The synthetic gene encoding the complete SCI sequence was cloned into E.coli expression vectors that directed both cytoplasmic and periplasmic expression. In cytoplasmic expression, the SCI gene was cloned directly downstream to the powerful, inducible λ-phage PL- and trc-promoters. No expression was obtained with the latter. With the former, expression levels of up to 3% of the total bacterial protein were obtained. These levels were improved 3- to 4-fold on incorporation of the E.coli dnaY gene product. Solubilisation and refolding of the purified SCI inclusion bodies failed to yield the active, correctly folded product. Failure to obtain an N-terminal sequence indicated an incompletely processed N-terminal methionine. For periplasmic expression, SCI, fused in-frame to the signal sequence of OmpA, a major E.coli outer membrane protein, was cloned into the same λ-phage PL promoter vector. High levels (=10%) of expression of insoluble SCI were obtained. The nearly homogeneous product was obtained by a two-step procedure, involving ion-exchange chromatography, followed by hydrophobic interaction chromatography. Characterisation by N-terminal sequencing, SDS-PAGE and electrospray mass spectrometry, confirmed the presence of correctly processed SCI in the form of covalently associated dimers. Refolding studies are at present in progress.