Randomized ZFP-TF libraries could induce a specific phenotype without detailed knowledge about the phenotype of interest because, theoretically, the libraries could modulate any gene in the target organism. We have developed a novel method for enhancing the efficiency of recombinant protein production in mammalian and microbial cells using combinatorial libraries of zinc finger protein transcription factors. To this end, we constructed tens of thousands of zinc finger proteins (ZFPs) with distinct DNA-binding specificities and fused these ZFPs to either a transcriptional activation or repression domain to make transcriptional activators or repressors, respectively. Expression vectors that encode these artificial transcription factors were delivered into Saccharomyces cerevisiae or HEK 293 cells along with reporter plasmids that code for human growth hormone (hGH) or SEAP (secreted alkaline phosphatase) (for yeast or HEK, respectively). Expression of the reporter genes was driven by either the cytomegalovirus (CMV) or SV40 virus promoters. After transfection, we screened the cells for increased synthesis of the reporter proteins. From these cells, we then isolated several ZFP-transcription factors (ZFP-TFs) that significantly increased hGH or SEAP synthesis and subjected these regulatory proteins to further characterization. Our results show that randomized ZFP-TF libraries are useful tools for improving the yield of heterologous recombinant protein both in yeast and mammalian cells.
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