Efficient production and purification of recombinant human interleukin-12 (IL-12) overexpressed in mammalian cells without affinity tag

by Jayanthi, Srinivas; Koppolu, Bhanu Prasanth; Smith, Sean G.; Jalah, Rashmi; Bear, Jenifer; Rosati, Margherita; Pavlakis, George N.; Felber, Barbara K.; Zaharoff, David A.; Kumar, Thallapuranam Krishnaswamy Suresh

Interleukin-12 is a heterodimeric, pro-inflammatory cytokine that is a key driver of cell-mediated immunity. Clinical interest in IL-12 is significant due to its potent anti-tumor activity and efficacy in controlling certain infectious diseases such as Leishmaniasis and Listeria infection. For clinical applications, the ease of production and purification of IL-12 and the associated cost continues to be a consideration. In this context, we report a simple and effective heparin-affinity based purification of recombinant human IL-12 (hIL-12) from the serum-free supernatants of stable IL-12-transduced HEK293 cells. Fractionation of culture supernatants on heparin Sepharose columns revealed that hIL-12 elutes as a single peak in 500 mM NaCl. Coomassie staining and Western blot analysis showed that hIL-12 eluted in 500 mM NaCl is homogeneous. Purity of hIL-12 was ascertained by RP-HPLC and ESI-MS analysis, and found to be similar to 98%. Western blot analysis, using monoclonal antibodies, demonstrated that the crucial inter-subunit disulfide bond linking the p35 and p40 subunits is intact in the purified hIL-12. Results of far UV circular dichroism, steady-state tryptophan fluorescence, and differential scanning calorimetry experiments suggest that purified hIL-12 is in its stable native conformation. Enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) and bioactivity studies demonstrate that hIL-12 is obtained in high yields (0.31 +/- 0.05 mg/mL of the culture medium) and is also fully bioactive. Isothermal titration calorimetry data show that IL-12 exhibits a moderate binding affinity (K-d(app) = 69 +/- 1 mu M) to heparin. The purification method described in this study is expected to provide greater impetus for research on the role of heparin in the regulation of the function of IL-12. In addition, the results of this study provide an avenue to obtain high amounts of IL-12 required for structural studies which are aimed at the development of novel IL-12-based therapeutics.

Protein Expression and Purification
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1096-0279; 1046-5928