Developing a recombinant expression system for human serine protease PRSS23

Sharoon Akhtar, Alex Hockla, Matt Coban, Evette Radisky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The PRSS23 gene, encoding putative serine protease 23, has been associated with several diseases by correlative gene expression studies and genetic-based comparative models. Our group has recently developed data implicating the expression of this gene as a potential driver of ovarian cancer malignancy. However, there have been no studies defining PRSS23 protein structure or demonstrating its hypothesized proteolytic function. We aim to elucidate PRSS23 protein structure and enzymatic activity. The first step to achieve this goal is to develop a robust expression system and purification protocol for recombinant PRSS23 protein. We hypothesize that developing a methodology to produce PRSS23 recombinant protein will enable us to determine its crystal structure, evaluate its biological and enzyme function, and ultimately target the enzyme therapeutically. We strategized to maximize chances of producing PRSS23 in its native form and with high yield by testing multiple systems and host species: human, yeast, and bacterial. We anticipate, based on the protein sequence, that PRSS23 is endogenously secreted and may be activated in the secretory pathway by furin, releasing the C-terminal catalytic domain from a smaller N-terminal domain. The protein is also predicted to be glycosylated. We generated expression plasmids for full-length PRSS23, codon-optimized for expression in human and Pichia pastoris expression systems, incorporating a His-tag for detection and purification. In the human HEK 293F and HEK 293T cell systems, despite optimizing transfection protocols and testing multiple expression constructs, secretion signals, and promoters, the expression level remained very low and was judged unlikely to produce sufficient protein for structural and functional studies. Integration of codon-optimized PRSS23 into the genome of P. pastoris produced integrants showing a spectrum of expression levels from very low to moderate. Experiments are ongoing to optimize expression conditions of the best clone and develop a purification workflow involving ammonium sulfate precipitation, immobilized nickel ion chromatography, and additional chromatographic steps as needed. In parallel, we cloned the catalytic domain of PRSS23, appropriately codon-optimized and also containing a C-terminal His-tag, into an expression vector for Escherichia coli. High levels of protein were produced as insoluble inclusion bodies, and a protocol was developed for nickel ion affinity purification under denaturing conditions. Experiments are ongoing to identify suitable conditions for in vitro refolding of the PRSS23 catalytic domain. Additionally, we are evaluating a maltose binding protein fusion with the PRSS23 catalytic domain as an alternative strategy to improve soluble protein production in E. coli. Significant quantities of pure protein will be needed to enable crystal structure determination and enzymatic activity elucidation, to unravel the biological mechanism of action and identify endogenous substrates, and potentially lead to new therapeutic strategies targeting PRSS23. The expression systems and purification workflows developed here will be a step forward toward these long-term goals.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Developing a recombinant expression system for human serine protease PRSS23'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this