Structural and Functional Comparison of SARS-CoV-2-Spike Receptor Binding Domain Produced in Pichia pastoris and Mammalian Cells

Argentinian AntiCovid Consortium et al.

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Received date: 14th October 2020

The yeast Pichia pastoris is a cost-effective and easily scalable system for recombinant protein production. In this work we compared the conformation of the receptor binding domain (RBD) from SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein expressed in P. pastoris and in the well established HEK-293T mammalian cell system. RBD obtained from both yeast and mammalian cells was properly folded, as indicated by UV-absorption, circular dichroism and tryptophan fluorescence. They also had similar stability, as indicated by temperature-induced unfolding (observed Tm were 50 °C and 52 °C for RBD produced in P. pastoris and HEK-293T cells, respectively). Moreover, the stability of both variants was similarly reduced when the ionic strength was increased, in agreement with a computational analysis predicting that a set of ionic interactions may stabilize RBD structure. Further characterization by HPLC, size-exclusion chromatography and mass spectrometry revealed a higher heterogeneity of RBD expressed in P. pastoris relative to that produced in HEK-293T cells, which disappeared after enzymatic removal of glycans. The production of RBD in P. pastoris was scaled-up in a bioreactor, with yields above 45 mg/L of 90% pure protein, thus potentially allowing large scale immunizations to produce neutralizing antibodies, as well as the large scale production of serological tests for SARS-CoV-2.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on a preprint server, which is currently undergoing peer review at Scientific Reports. The findings have yet to be thoroughly evaluated, nor has a decision on ultimate publication been made. Therefore, the results reported should not be considered conclusive, and these findings should not be used to inform clinical practice, or public health policy, or be promoted as verified information.

Scientific Reports

Nature Research, Springer Nature