Integrated approaches for the separation and purification of recombinant HPV16 E6 protein from Escherichia coli crude extracts

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Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmissible virus responsible for 5% of global human cancers and associated with 99% of cervical cancer cases. The oncogenic potential of high-risk HPVs is mainly related to the E6 and E7 oncoproteins, which are responsible, at least in part, for inactivating the p53 and pRb tumor suppressor proteins. Due to the critical role of the E6 protein in malignant tumorigenesis, it is widely recognized as a therapeutic target for anti-HPV drug development. Nevertheless, it is required to obtain large amounts of protein with high purity to perform biointeraction studies with the potential inhibitor drugs. In this work, recombinant dual-tagged E6 protein (His6-MBP-E6) was expressed from Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultures and successfully extracted by sonication/ice cycles. Affinity chromatography using MBPtrap columns allowed 85 ± 5% protein recovery with the elimination of major host heterologous proteins in a single fraction. Subsequently, a polishing step was studied by applying anionic exchange (QSepharose), size exclusion (Superdex), or immobilized-metal affinity chromatography (HisTrap). The combination of affinity chromatography with size exclusion or two affinity chromatography techniques allowed us to obtain 82 ± 2% and 94 ± 3%, of highly pure His6-MBP-E6, respectively. Also, the secondary structure of His6-MBP-E6 is preserved in both purification strategies, as appraised by circular dichroism and western-blot studies. Thermal shift assay confirmed the CD results and suggested potential additives for protein stabilization. Altogether, the reproducible strategies established for the purification of His6-MBP-E6 protein could be successfully applied to later perform biointeraction studies and structural characterization of protein–ligand complexes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number123647
Number of pages13
JournalSeparation and Purification Technology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023


  • Affinity purification
  • Chromatography
  • E6 protein
  • HPV
  • Protein solubility
  • Protein stability


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