Tools to cope with difficult-to-express proteins

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. The identification of DNA coding sequences contained in the genome of many organisms coupled to the use of high throughput approaches has fueled the field of recombinant protein production. Apart from basic research interests, the growing relevance of this field is highlighted by the global sales of the top ten biopharmaceuticals on the market, which exceeds the trillion USD in a steady increasing tendency. Therefore, the demand of biological compounds seems to have a long run on the market. One of the most popular expression systems is based on Escherichia coli cells which apart from being cost-effective counts with a large selection of resources. However, a significant percentage of the genes of interest are not efficiently expressed in this system, or the expressed proteins are accumulated within aggregates, degraded or lacking the desired biological activity, being finally discarded. In some instances, expressing the gene in a homologous expression system might alleviate those drawbacks but then the process usually increases in complexity and is not as cost-effective as the prokaryotic systems. An increasing toolbox is available to approach the production and purification of those difficult-to-express proteins, including different expression systems, promoters with different strengths, cultivation media and conditions, solubilization tags and chaperone coexpression, among others. However, in most cases, the process follows a non-integrative trial and error strategy with discrete success. This review is focused on the design of the whole process by using an integrative approach, taken into account the accumulated knowledge of the pivotal factors that affect any of the key processes, in an attempt to rationalize the efforts made in this appealing field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4347-4355
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • Biopharmaceuticals
  • Difficult-to-express protein
  • Escherichia coli
  • Expression system
  • Protein aggregation
  • Protein solubility
  • Recombinant protein production


Dive into the research topics of 'Tools to cope with difficult-to-express proteins'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this