Colicins are antimicrobial proteins produced by Escherichia coli
that hold great promise as viable complements or alternatives to antibiotics. Cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) is a useful production platform for toxic proteins because it eliminates the need to maintain cell viability, a common problem in cell-based production. Previously, we demonstrated that colicins produced by CFPS based on crude Escherichia coli
lysates are effective in eradicating antibiotic-tolerant bacteria known as persisters. However, we also found that some colicins have poor solubility or low cell-killing activity. In this study, we improved the solubility of colicin M from 16% to nearly 100% by producing it in chaperone-enriched E. coli
extracts, resulting in enhanced cell-killing activity. We also improved the cytotoxicity of colicin E3 by adding or co-expressing the E3 immunity protein during the CFPS reaction, suggesting that the E3 immunity protein enhances colicin E3 activity in addition to protecting the host strain. Finally, we confirmed our previous finding that active colicins can be rapidly synthesized by observing colicin E1 production over time in CFPS. Within three hours of CFPS incubation, colicin E1 reached its maximum production yield and maintained high cytotoxicity during longer incubations up to 20 h. Taken together, our findings indicate that colicin production can be easily optimized for improved solubility and activity using the CFPS platform.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited