Method of Making Recombinant Silk and Silk-Amyloid Hybrid Proteins Using Bacteria

Northeastern University Background
Engineered bacteria have provided a new method for mass producing biological compounds and proteins in recent years. Bacteria are easy to grow in large quantities, and we can typically harvest desired compounds in a safer, more environmentally friendly way than standard methods. Proteins that are easiest to harvest are those that are excreted from cells into growth medium. Intracellular proteins are not produced as continuously and are subject to degradation via proteolysis. Finding a way to engineer proteins that can be excreted is essential to the future of bacterial-produced compound manufacturing.
Spider silk is a very strong material and is more thermally conductive than any other organic material. Despite its amazing qualities, natural spider silk does not make an ideal material for farming as spiders are both carnivorous and venomous. This is just one example of how this technology provides an avenue for producing recombinant proteins, like silk or collagen, in a safer and more efficient way.
Technology Overview
The harvesting of intracellular proteins typically requires the lysis of bacterial cells, among other steps not required for secreted protein harvesting. This technology will help eliminate these costly extra steps by allowing bacterial-produced proteins to be excreted from the cell using an existing secretory pathway in E. coli to excrete curli fibers. Recombinant collagen and silk proteins can be altered to make use of a secretory pathway encoded by the csg genes. This would allow these bacterial-produced proteins to be excreted from the cell for easier and less expensive harvesting.
Benefits
Makes recombinant protein production:

More efficient
Scalable
Fewer steps
Higher‑yield
More cost effective

Applications

Silk manufacturing
Recombinant collagen
Supplement production
Probiotics
Pharmaceutical manufacturing

Opportunity

Development partner
Commercial partner
Licensing
Collaboration

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