Chimeric 3’ flanking regions strongly enhance gene expression in plants

Abstract


Plants represent a promising platform for the highly scalable production of recombinant proteins. Previously, we identified the tobacco extensin terminator lacking its intron as an element that reduced transcript read‐through and improved recombinant protein production in a plant‐based system. In this study, we systematically compared nonreplicating plant expression vectors containing over 20 commonly used or newly identified terminators from diverse sources. We found that eight gene terminators enhance reporter gene expression significantly more than the commonly used 35S and NOS terminators. The intronless extensin terminator provided a 13.6‐fold increase compared with the NOS terminator. Combining terminators in tandem produced large synergistic effects, with many combinations providing a >25‐fold increase in expression. Addition of the tobacco Rb7 or TM6 matrix attachment region (MAR) strongly enhanced protein production when added to most terminators, with the Rb7 MAR providing the greatest enhancement. Using deletion analysis, the full activity of the 1193 bp Rb7 MAR was found to require only a 463‐bp region at its 3’ end. Combined terminators and MAR together provided a >60‐fold increase compared with the NOS terminator alone. These combinations were then placed in a replicating geminiviral vector, providing a total of >150‐fold enhancement over the original NOS vector, corresponding to an estimated yield of 3–5 g recombinant protein per kg leaf fresh weight or around 50% of the leaf total soluble protein. These results demonstrate the importance of 3’ flanking regions in optimizing gene expression and show great potential for 3’ flanking regions to improve DNA‐based recombinant protein production systems.

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