Production of biologically active complement factor H in therapeutically useful quantities

Christoph Q. Schmidt, Fern C. Slingsby, Anna Richards, Paul N. Barlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human complement factor H (FH), an abundant 155-kDa plasma glycoprotein with 40 disulphide bonds, regulates the alternative-pathway complement cascade. Mutations and single nucleotide polymorphisms in the FH gene predispose to development of age-related macular degeneration, atypical haemolytic uraemic syndrome and dense deposit disease. Supplementation with FH variants protective against disease is an enticing therapeutic prospect. Current sources of therapeutic FH are restricted to human blood plasma highlighting a need for recombinant material. Previously FH expression in cultured plant, mammalian or insect cells yielded protein amounts inadequate for full characterisation, and orders of magnitude below therapeutic usefulness. Here, the V62,Y402 variant of FH has been produced recombinantly (rFH) in Pichia pastoris cells. Codon-optimisation proved essential whilst exploitation of the yeast mating α-factor peptide ensured secretion. We thereby produced multiple 10s-of-milligram of rFH. Following endoglycosidase H digestion of N-linked glycans, rFH (with eight residual N-acetylglucosamine moieties) was purified on heparin-affinity resin and anion-exchange chromatography. Full-length rFH was verified by mass spectrometry and Western blot using monoclonal antibodies to the C-terminus. Recombinant FH is a single non-aggregated species (by dynamic light scattering) and fully functional in biochemical and biological assays. An additional version of rFH was produced in which eight N-glycosylation sequons were ablated by Asn-Gln substitutions resulting in a glycan-devoid product. Successful production of rFH in this potentially very highly expressing system makes production of therapeutically useful quantities economically viable. Furthermore, ease of genetic manipulation in P. pastoris would allow production of engineered FH versions with enhanced pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-263
Number of pages10
JournalProtein Expression and Purification
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • Protein therapeutic
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Atypical haemolytic uraemic syndrome
  • Dense deposit disease
  • Synthetic gene


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