Efficient cell-free expression with the endogenous E. Coli RNA polymerase and sigma factor 70

Jonghyeon Shin, Vincent Noireaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


Background: Escherichia coli cell-free expression systems use bacteriophage RNA polymerases, such as T7, to synthesize large amounts of recombinant proteins. These systems are used for many applications in biotechnology, such as proteomics. Recently, informational processes have been reconstituted in vitro with cell-free systems. These synthetic approaches, however, have been seriously limited by a lack of transcription modularity. The current available cell-free systems have been optimized to work with bacteriophage RNA polymerases, which put significant restrictions to engineer processes related to biological information. The development of efficient cell-free systems with broader transcription capabilities is required to study complex informational processes in vitro.Results: In this work, an efficient cell-free expression system that uses the endogenous E. coli RNA polymerase only and sigma factor 70 for transcription was prepared. Approximately 0.75 mg/ml of Firefly luciferase and enhanced green fluorescent protein were produced in batch mode. A plasmid was optimized with different regulatory parts to increase the expression. In addition, a new eGFP was engineered that is more translatable in cell-free systems than the original eGFP. The protein production was characterized with three different adenosine triphosphate (ATP) regeneration systems: creatine phosphate (CP), phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP), and 3-phosphoglyceric acid (3-PGA). The maximum protein production was obtained with 3-PGA. Preparation of the crude extract was streamlined to a simple routine procedure that takes 12 hours including cell culture.Conclusions: Although it uses the endogenous E. coli transcription machinery, this cell-free system can produce active proteins in quantities comparable to bacteriophage systems. The E. coli transcription provides much more possibilities to engineer informational processes in vitro. Many E. coli promoters/operators specific to sigma factor 70 are available that form a broad library of regulatory parts. In this work, cell-free expression is developed as a toolbox to design and to study synthetic gene circuits in vitro.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalJournal of Biological Engineering
StatePublished - Jun 24 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Nadezda Monina for technical assistance in the extract preparation, Jonathan Gapp and Catherine Raach for reading and correcting the manuscript. This work was supported by UMN startup funds, BSF Binational Science Foundation grant 2006398, National Science Foundation grant PHY-0750133.


Dive into the research topics of 'Efficient cell-free expression with the endogenous E. Coli RNA polymerase and sigma factor 70'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this