Green Algae can be used as a New Platform to Produce Spike Proteins

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have demonstrated the potential of using green algae to make recombinant viral proteins that could be used in large scale assays to detect antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The researchers also produced recombinant SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor-binding domain proteins in the microalgae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

The researchers tested three protein-targeting strategies. Proteins were targeted to be retained within the endoplasmic reticulum, to be secreted from the cell into culture media, or to accumulate within the chloroplast. The viral protein was fused to a fluorescent mClover protein to enable high-throughput fluorescent screening and rapid identification of algae expressing enough protein for its accumulation and function to be tested. The researchers showed that spike RBD protein purified from the endoplasmic reticulum specifically bound to recombinant ACE2 protein at a similar affinity to spike-RBD expressed in mammalian cells.

This study shows the potential of using eukaryotic algae as an efficient and scalable platform to make correctly-folded and functional spike RBD recombinant proteins that could be used in large-scale antibody assays or as potential vaccine antigens. The algae can be grown at scale for a fraction of the cost of the mammalian cell lines. 

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