How can I increase the amount of soluble recombinant protein in E. coli expression?
FAQ ID -64

The QIAexpress Protein Purification System allows easy solubilization of 6xHis-tagged proteins sequestered into insoluble inclusion bodies by using denaturants such as 6 M Guanidine-HCl or 8 M Urea, or a variety of detergents. Proteins purified under denaturing conditions can then be refolded if necessary before use (please see: Wingfield, P. T., Palmer, I., and Liang, S.-M. (1995). Folding and purification of insoluble (inclusion-body) proteins from Escherichia coli. In: Current Protocols in Protein Science, vol. 1, Coligan, J. E., Dunn, B. M., Ploegh, H. L., Speicher, D. W., and Wingfield, P.T. eds. Wiley and Sons, Inc. New York, pp. 6.5.1–6.5.27.). The QIAexpressionist also contains recommendations for refolding proteins prior to the Appendix section of the handbook.

To increase levels of soluble protein, here are a few recommendations:

  • a reduction in growth temperature following induction may be helpful. Growth temperature often directly affects both expression levels and protein solubility, and lower temperatures will reduce expression levels leading to a higher amount of soluble protein.
  • the culture can be grown to a higher cell density before induction and the expression period can be kept to a minimum.
  • The IPTG concentration can be reduced from 1 mM to 0.005 mM, which would reduce the expression level by 90–95%.
  • it may be sufficient to change the host strain used, since certain strains tolerate some proteins better than others and allow higher levels of expression before forming inclusion bodies.
  • many proteins require metal cofactors in order to remain soluble, and the addition of metal salts to the culture media may be helpful. If the metal requirements of the protein are not known, a number of different supplements should be tested. Note that some divalent cations may interfere with protein binding to Ni-NTA.