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Why Is Protein Expression Relevant Today?

The Human Genome Project, a large international effort to catalog every gene and DNA base pair that completes the blueprint for the human body, took place from 1990 to 2003. However, once this essential research was complete, it was clear that scientists still had a great deal to learn about the structure and function of the human body. Because genes encode for the proteins that ultimately determine cell function, mapping the proteins present in the human body seemed like a great place to start.

What Is Protein Expression?

By 2014, researchers with the human proteome project had discovered somewhere between 17,294 and 18,097 genes coded for 80,000 to 400,000 individual proteins. The eventual protein expression in the body is defined as the making, using, regulating, and modifying of proteins. The beginning of the protein expression process depends on translating the information in human genes into first messenger RNA (mRNA), then proteins via gene expression.

Interestingly enough, the synthetic manufacturing of proteins so crucial to study the many variants within the human proteome is also known as protein expression. However, this process takes place within a lab setting instead of within a live organism. Once proteins are produced via protein expression, researchers can study their structure, function, and potential to act upon targets within the body.

What Are Commonly Used Protein Expression Systems and What Factors Influence Their Selection?

In the past, proteins selected for laboratory study were harvested from animal hosts, including bacterium, yeasts, algae, fungi, and even mammals. However, these same types of proteins are more readily available via recombinant or cloned DNA. Through recombinant DNA, researchers express the necessary genes and mRNA to produce recombinant proteins in what is known as an expression vector—often a plasmid or virus that can support the expression of the protein in question.

The resulting recombinant proteins are readily available for use without the need for live animal hosts as a protein expression system. While the preferred protein expression system can change depending on the protein’s eventual use, researchers commonly use a few standard systems. These include Chinese Hamster ovary cells (CHO), E. coli bacteria, yeast, baculovirus/insect cells, and filamentous fungi.

Overall, three basic protein expression system groups are available today—bacteria, baculovirus/insect, and mammalian cells. It is important to choose an expression system that tolerates the expression of the protein in question, and researchers generally determine the system that will work best via an expression test and report. Factors to assess during this test include activity, protein structure, sequence, function, folding, and any post-translational modifications necessary to alter the final protein—as well as these factors’ influence on the host cell.

Why Is Protein Expression Relevant Today?

With many thousands of proteins within the human body—and a similarly large number of functions accomplished by each—the study of proteins is a crucial starting point for biomedical and biochemical research. However, with such a diverse set of structures and functions, studying proteins within the organism proves daunting. Protein expression in a lab allows researchers to study, modify, and test proteins in vitro—outside the living organism—and control all experiment elements without interference.

Currently, protein expression enables researchers to produce substrates and enzymes for further study and available protein products for pharmaceutical drugs. As protein expression continues, researchers will be better able to exert control over their interactions on disease targets within the body—providing much-needed therapies for patients experiencing diseases of all types.

Sources:

https://www.biosyn.com/faq/what-is-protein-expression.aspx
https://www.genscript.com/technical-guide.html
http://www.humanproteomemap.org/?cmpid=newscred
https://microbialcellfactories.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12934-017-0654-4
https://www.enzolifesciences.com/science-center/technotes/2020/january/why-do-we-need-recombinant-proteins
https://www.sciencemag.org/features/2018/11/protein-expression-revisited


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