Strategies for Heterologous Expression, Synthesis, and Purification of Animal Venom Toxins

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Animal venoms are complex mixtures containing peptides and proteins known as toxins, which are responsible for the deleterious effect of envenomations. Across the animal Kingdom, toxin diversity is enormous, and the ability to understand the biochemical mechanisms governing toxicity is not only relevant for the development of better envenomation therapies, but also for exploiting toxin bioactivities for therapeutic or biotechnological purposes. Most of toxinology research has relied on obtaining the toxins from crude venoms; however, some toxins are difficult to obtain because the venomous animal is endangered, does not thrive in captivity, produces only a small amount of venom, is difficult to milk, or only produces low amounts of the toxin of interest. Heterologous expression of toxins enables the production of sufficient amounts to unlock the biotechnological potential of these bioactive proteins. Moreover, heterologous expression ensures homogeneity, avoids cross-contamination with other venom components, and circumvents the use of crude venom. Heterologous expression is also not only restricted to natural toxins, but allows for the design of toxins with special properties or can take advantage of the increasing amount of transcriptomics and genomics data, enabling the expression of dormant toxin genes. The main challenge when producing toxins is obtaining properly folded proteins with a correct disulfide pattern that ensures the activity of the toxin of interest. This review presents the strategies that can be used to express toxins in bacteria, yeast, insect cells, or mammalian cells, as well as synthetic approaches that do not involve cells, such as cell-free biosynthesis and peptide synthesis. This is accompanied by an overview of the main advantages and drawbacks of these different systems for producing toxins, as well as a discussion of the biosafety considerations that need to be made when working with highly bioactive proteins.

TidsskriftFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Antal sider26
StatusUdgivet - 2022

ID: 291807426