Can I directly clone, propagate and express in BL21 without using TOP10?

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It is imperative that a cloning strain such as TOP10 be used for characterization of the plasmid, propagation, and maintenance. BL21 cells are wild-type for endA and recA, which could result in poor miniprep quality and a greater chance of plasmid rearrangements due to recombination. In addition, BL21 cells contain the T7 RNA polymerase gene which is expressed at low levels even in the absence of inducer. If the gene is toxic to E. coli, plasmid instability and/or cell death can result.

Answer Id: E3845

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What is the maximum size plasmid transformed for bacterial expression?

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The largest size plasmid we've tried is 16 kb, but you should theoretically be able to transform a plasmid as large as 30 kb before efficiency begins to drop.

Answer Id: E9720

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What is the optimal spacing between the ribosome-binding site (RBS) and the ATG when cloning into a bacterial expression vector?

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The sequence between the RBS and ATG should be between 8-12 bp and not contain any palindromic sequence.

Answer Id: E9696

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What competent cell strain should I use for protein expression from a T7 promoter-based vector and why?

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In all BL21 (DE3) cell lines, there is always some basal level expression of T7 RNA polymerase (note that this is not true for the BL21 AI™ cell line). If a toxic gene is cloned downstream of the T7 promoter, basal expression of this gene may lead to reduced growth rates, cell death, or plasmid instability. Utilizing a variant cell line that contains a gene encoding the T7 lysozyme as well as the usual DE3 components can circumvent this problem. T7 lysozyme has been shown to bind to T7 RNA polymerase and inhibit transcription. This activity is exploited to reduce basal levels of T7 RNA polymerase. Upon induction with IPTG, the lac repressors no longer bind to the lac operator region and T7 RNA polymerase is produced. This increased level of T7 RNA polymerase production exceeds the limited capacity of the few T7 lysozyme proteins present to inhibit T7 RNA polymerase, resulting in expression of the gene of interest. The BL21-AI™ cell line can also be used to avoid basal expression with toxic proteins (see below for more details). T7 lysozyme is a bifunctional enzyme. This means that in addition to its T7 RNA polymerase binding activity, it also cleaves a specific bond in the peptidoglycan layer of the E. coli cell wall. This activity increases the ease of cell lysis by freeze-thaw cycles prior to purification.

Minimizing basal expression is particularly important for pET vector expression when hosts that do not carry the pLysS plasmid are allowed to grow to stationary phase (16 hr; overnight cultures) and when the target gene is toxic. Without the T7 lysozyme from the pLysS plasmid, basal expression levels are elevated in cultures grown to stationary phase. If the gene is toxic, the addition of 0.5-1% glucose to both liquid medium and agar plates may be necessary to maintain plasmid stability. Hosts containing pLysS may express an elevated level of lysozyme in cultures grown to stationary phase such that induced levels of the target protein are lowered. This is likely due to the fact that the chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (CAT) gene promoter is also sensitive to stimulation by cAMP in the absence of glucose and is upstream of the T7 lysozyme gene in pLysS.

Answer Id: E9721

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What factors can affect expression in an inducible T7 system?

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There are several factors that can affect expression including:

- Amount of inducer (IPTG) added
- Time of induction (optimal OD600 for induction is 0.4 to 0.6)
- Duration of induction
- Induction temperature
- The construct itself

Answer Id: E9701

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How much IPTG can I use to induce expression from a T7 promoter containing bacterial expression vector?

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This can vary somewhat, but we typically suggest a starting range of 0.1-5 mM IPTG.

Answer Id: E9697

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Can I use carbenicillin in place of ampicillin in my transformation/T7 expression experiments?

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Yes; in fact, carbenicillin is generally more stable than ampicillin and may help to increase expression levels by preventing loss of the pET plasmids.

Answer Id: E9704

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I am trying to express my protein using a T7 promoter-based vector. What does “leaky expression” mean?

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Leaky expression means there is some basal level expression seen. For example, in all BL21 (DE3) cell lines, there is always some basal level expression of T7 RNA polymerase. This “leaky expression” could lead to reduced growth rates, cell death, or plasmid instability if a toxic gene is cloned downstream of the T7 promoter.

Answer Id: E9722

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Can I co-express two proteins in E. coli?

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To express two proteins at the same time in E. coli, we suggest using a dual promoter vector or using two different but compatible vectors at the same time. For example, you could try a pET vector with a pRSET vector, which contain different ORI (pBR322 origin and pUC origin, respectively). The only issue is that the pRSET vector is high copy number but pET is not; therefore, you may get significantly more protein expression from pRSET than from pET if you add them into one host cell.

Answer Id: E9694

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Can I use one of your mammalian expression vectors with a T7 promoter for expression in E. coli?

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Answer

Transcripts can be made, but there is no ribosome binding site or Shine Dalgarno sequence to initiate translation; therefore, little protein will be produced.

Answer Id: E9702

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How can I make a glycerol stock of my desired construct?

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Once you have obtained your desired construct, we recommend that you store your clone as a glycerol stock. Please follow these steps to create a glycerol stock:

- Grow 1 to 2 mL of the strain to saturation (12-16 hours; OD600 = 1-2) in LB containing 50-100 μg/mL ampicillin
- Combine 0.85 mL of the culture with 0.15 mL of sterile glycerol
- Mix the solution by vortexing
- Transfer to an appropriate vial for freezing and cap
- Freeze in an ethanol/dry ice bath or liquid nitrogen and then transfer to –80 degrees C for long-term storage.

Answer Id: E9727

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I'm getting no expression from my bacterial expression vector, but my cells are growing normally. What should I do?

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Answer

Please view the possible causes and solutions to try:

- Frame shifts or a premature stop codon is present in the construct; check the sequence.
- The wrong cell strain was used for expression.
- If using a glycerol stock, the integrity of the plasmid can change because most cell strains for expression are not RecA and EndA-. Use freshly transformed cells.
- The protein is in the insoluble section; check cell lysates and not just the supernatant.
- Rare codons were used in the gene of interest: check the codon usage. (http://nihserver.mbi.ucla.edu/RACC)
- The cells may be kicking out the plasmid during culture: this is more common in plasmids that are ampicillin resistant. Try using carbenicillin instead of ampicillin in the medium; wash and resuspend the overnight culture with LB containing fresh amp/carb before inoculation.

Answer Id: E9736

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I'm getting low protein yield from my bacterial expression system. What can I do to improve this?

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Answer

- Inoculate from fresh bacterial cultures, since higher protein yields are generally obtained from a fresh bacterial colony.

- Check the codon usage in the recombinant protein sequence for infrequently used codons. Replacing the rare codons with more commonly used codons can significantly increase expression levels. For example, the arginine codons AGG and AGA are used infrequently by E. coli, so the level of tRNAs for these codons is low.

- Add protease inhibitors, such as PMSF, to buffers during protein purification. Use freshly made PMSF, since PMSF loses effectiveness within 30 min of dilution into an aqueous solution.

- If you are using ampicillin for selection in your expression experiments, you may be experiencing plasmid instability due to the absence of selective conditions. This occurs as the ampicillin is destroyed by β-lactamase or hydrolyzed under the acidic media conditions generated by bacterial metabolism. You may want to substitute carbenicillin for ampicillin in your transformation and expression experiments.

- The recombinant protein may be toxic to bacterial cells. Try a tighter regulation system for competent cell expression such as BL21-AI™. You may also consider trying a different expression system such as the pBAD system.

Answer Id: E9738

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I am using a bacterial expression vector containing the T7 promoter. At what OD should I induce my cells?

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Answer

The time of induction can vary widely. Successful experiments using the T7 systems have induced at an OD600 of 0.1-1.2. Generally speaking, induction at high ODs will lead to lower expression yields, as the cells will stop growing rapidly after the density is too high. The optimal OD600 for induction is 0.4 to 0.6.

Answer Id: E9698

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What is the difference between the Champion™ pET expression systems and the T7 expression systems?

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Answer

Both the T7 and Champion™ pET expression vectors contain a strong bacteriophage T7 promoter. After induction with IPTG, T7 RNA polymerase will bind the T7 promoter, leading to transcription and translation of your gene of interest. Studies have shown that there is always some basal expression of T7 RNA polymerase from the lacUV5 promoter in lambda DE3 lysogens, even in the absence of inducer (Studier and Moffatt, 1986 [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3537305]). In general, this is not a problem, but if the gene of interest is toxic to the E. coli host, basal expression of the gene of interest may lead to plasmid instability and/or cell death. To address this problem, the Champion™ pET vectors have been designed to contain a T7lac promoter to drive expression of the gene of interest. The T7lac promoter consists of a lac operator sequence placed downstream of the T7 promoter. The lac operator serves as a binding site for the lac repressor (encoded by the lacI gene) and functions to further repress T7 RNA polymerase-induced basal transcription of the gene of interest in BL21 Star™ (DE3) cells.

Answer Id: E9705

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