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High Yield Protein Production from Pichia pastoris Yeast: A Protocol for Benchtop Fermentation

otic expression systems, Pichia offers many advantages, because it does not have the endotoxin problem associated with bacteria nor the viral contamination problem of proteins produced in animal cell culture. Furthermore, P. pastoris can utilize methanol as a carbon source in the absence of glucose. The P. pastoris expression system uses the methanol-induced alcohol oxidase (AOX1) promoter, which controls the gene that codes for the expression of alcohol oxidase, the enzyme which catalyzes the first step in the metabolism of methanol. This promoter has been characterized and incorporated into a series of P. pastoris expression vectors. Since the proteins produced in P. pastoris are typically folded correctly and secreted into the medium, the fermentation of genetically engineered P. pastoris provides an excellent alternative to E. coli expression systems. A number of proteins have been produced using this system, including tetanus toxin fragment, Bordatella pertussis pertactin, human serum albumin and lysozyme. (3 - 7).


Minimizing Growth Limiting Factors
Another advantage of Pichia pastoris is a prolific growth rate. Therefore, it would seem easy enough to culture it in a shake flask. This seeming advantage, however, can pose a host of problems, including pH control, oxygen limitation, nutrient limitation and temperature fluctuation. Researchers at New Brunswick Scientific (Edison, NJ) found that by switching from a shaker to a fermentor, protein production in Pichia could be increased by over 140% (3). The fermentor enables dissolved oxygen (DO) levels to be raised, not just by increasing agitation, but by increasing air flow, by supplementing the air stream with pure oxygen, or by doing all three either in series or in parallel. Nutrient limitation can also be minimized, since fermentors can be run in fed-batch mode, where fresh media or grow
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