Optimising host cell physiology and stress avoidance for the production of recombinant human tumour necrosis factor α in Escherichia coli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Steven Williams
  • Antony Hitchcock
  • Daniel Smith

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations



As high-level recombinant protein production (RPP) exerts a massive stress on the production host, an extensive literature on RPP optimisation focuses on separating the growth phase from RPP production once sufficient biomass has been obtained. The aim of the current investigation was to optimise benefits of the relatively neglected alternative strategy to achieve high level RPP during growth by minimizing stress on the host. High yields of the biopharmaceutical recombinant human Tumour Necrosis Factor alpha (rhTNFα) were obtained by fed-batch fermentation relevant to industrial production based upon parameters that most severely affected RPP in preliminary laboratory scale batch cultures. Decreasing the inducer concentration and growth temperature, but increasing the production period were far more effective for increasing RPP yields than changing the growth phase at which production was induced. High yields of up to 5 g·L-1 of rhTNFα were obtained with minimal plasmid loss even in synthetic media that lack animal-derived components and are therefore fully compliant with regulatory requirements. Most of the product was soluble and biologically active. In summary, stress minimisation was shown to be an effective way to optimise production of rhTNFα. Data generated in shake-flask experiments allowed design of intensified bioreactor cultures in which RPP and growth could be balanced, leading to higher yield of both rhTNFα and biomass than previous fermentations. An additional benefit of this approach is avoidance of lysis during harvesting and downstream processing.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-452
Early online date14 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Heterologous protein, High Cell Density Culture, Fed-batch fermentation, Protein solubility, Biopharmaceutical