Systematic Optimization of Protein Secretory Pathways in Saccharomyces cerevisiae to Increase Expression of Hepatitis B Small Antigen

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Hepatitis B is a major disease that chronically infects millions of people in the world, especially in developing countries. Currently, one of the effective vaccines to prevent Hepatitis B is the Hepatitis B Small Antigen (HBsAg), which is mainly produced by the recombinant yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In order to bring down the price, which is still too high for people in developing countries to afford, it is important to understand key cellular processes that limit protein expression. In this study, we took advantage of yeast knockout collection (YKO) and screened 194 S. cerevisiae strains with single gene knocked out in four major steps of the protein secretory pathway, i.e., endoplasmic-reticulum (ER)-associated protein degradation, protein folding, unfolded protein response (UPR), and translocation and exocytosis. The screening showed that the single deletion of YPT32, SBH1, and HSP42 led to the most significant increase of HBsAg expression over the wild type while the deletion of IRE1 led to a profound decrease of HBsAg expression. The synergistic effects of gene knockout and gene overexpression were next tested. We found that simultaneously deleting YPT32 and overexpressing IRE1 led to a 2.12-fold increase in HBsAg expression over the wild type strain. The results of this study revealed novel genetic targets of protein secretory pathways that could potentially improve the manufacturing of broad scope vaccines in a cost-effective way using recombinant S. cerevisiae.



yeast knockout, HBsAg, protein express pathway, synergy, CRISPR