A supernumerary synthetic chromosome in Komagataella phaffii as a repository for extraneous genetic material

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Abramczyk, D.; Sanchez-Olmos, M. d. C.; Ramirez Rojas, A. A.; Schindler, D.; Robertson, D.; McColm, S.; Marston, A.; Barlow, P.


Komagataella phaffii (Pichia pastoris) is a methylotropic commercially important non-conventional species of yeast that grows in a fermentor to exceptionally high densities on simple media and secretes recombinant proteins efficiently. Genetic engineering strategies are being explored in this organism to facilitate cost-effective biomanufacturing. Small, stable artificial chromosomes in K. phaffii could offer unique advantages by accommodating multiple integrations of extraneous genes and their promoters without accumulating perturbations of native chromosomes or exhausting the availability of selection markers. Here, we describe a linear nanochromosome (of 15-25 kb) that, according to whole-genome sequencing, persists in K. phaffii over many generations with a copy number per cell of one, provided non-homologous end joining is compromised (by KU70-knockout). The nanochromosome includes a copy of the centromere from K. phaffii chromosome 3, a K. phaffii-derived autonomously replicating sequence on either side of the centromere, and a pair of K. phaffii-like telomeres. It contains, within its q arm, a landing zone in which genes of interest alternate with long (approx. 1-kb) non-coding DNA chosen to facilitate homologous recombination and serve as spacers. The landing zone can be extended along the nanochromosome, in an inch-worming mode of sequential gene integrations, accompanied by recycling of just two antibiotic-resistance markers. The nanochromosome was used to express PDI, a gene encoding protein disulfide isomerase. Co-expression with PDI allowed the production, from a genomically integrated gene, of secreted murine complement factor H, a plasma protein containing 40 disulfide bonds. As further proof-of-principle, we co-expressed, from a nanochromosome, both PDI and a gene for GFP-tagged human complement factor H under the control of PAOX1 and demonstrated that the secreted protein was active as a regulator of the complement system. We have added K. phaffii to the list of organisms that can produce human proteins from genes carried on a stable, linear, artificial chromosome. We envisage using nanochromosomes as repositories for numerous extraneous genes, allowing intensive engineering of K. phaffii without compromising its genome or weakening the resulting strain.

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