Improved Protocol for the Production of the Low-Expression Eukaryotic Membrane Protein Human Aquaporin 2 in Pichia pastoris for Solid-State NMR


Solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (SSNMR) is a powerful biophysical technique for studies of membrane proteins; it requires the incorporation of isotopic labels into the sample. This is usually accomplished through over-expression of the protein of interest in a prokaryotic or eukaryotic host in minimal media, wherein all (or some) carbon and nitrogen sources are isotopically labeled. In order to obtain multi-dimensional NMR spectra with adequate signal-to-noise ratios suitable for in-depth analysis, one requires high yields of homogeneously structured protein. Some membrane proteins, such as human aquaporin 2 (hAQP2), exhibit poor expression, which can make producing a sample for SSNMR in an economic fashion extremely difficult, as growth in minimal media adds additional strain on expression hosts. We have developed an optimized growth protocol for eukaryotic membrane proteins in the methylotrophic yeast Pichia pastoris. Our new growth protocol uses the combination of sorbitol supplementation, higher cell density, and low temperature induction (LT-SEVIN), which increases the yield of full-length, isotopically labeled hAQP2 ten-fold. Combining mass spectrometry and SSNMR, we were able to determine the nature and the extent of post-translational modifications of the protein. The resultant protein can be functionally reconstituted into lipids and yields excellent resolution and spectral coverage when analyzed by two-dimensional SSNMR spectroscopy.