Straightforward approach to produce recombinant scorpion toxins—Pore blockers of potassium channels
Scorpion venom peptide blockers (KTx) of potassium channels are a valuable tool for structure-functional studies and prospective candidates for medical applications. Low yields of recombinant KTx hamper their wide application. We developed convenient and efficient bioengineering approach to a large-scale KTx production that meets increasing demands for such peptides. Maltose-binding protein was used as a carrier for cytoplasmic expression of folded disulfide-rich KTx in E. coli. TEV protease was applied for in vitro cleavage of the target peptide from the carrier. To produce KTx with retained native N-terminal sequence, the last residue of TEV protease cleavage site (CSTEV) was occupied by the native N-terminal residue of a target peptide. It was shown that decreased efficiency of hydrolysis of fusion proteins with non-canonical CSTEVcan be overcome without by-product formation. Disulfide formation and folding of a target peptide occurred in cytoplasm eliminating the need for renaturation procedure in vitro. Advantages of this approach were demonstrated by producing six peptides with three disulfide bonds related to four KTx sub-families and achieving peptide yields of 12–22 mg per liter of culture. The developed approach can be of general use for low-cost production of various KTx, as well as other disulfide-rich peptides and proteins.