Tobacco BY2 cells expressing recombinant cardosin B as an alternative for production of active milk clotting enzymes

André Folgado, Rita Abranches

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cynara cardunculus L. or cardoon is a plant that is used as a source of milk clotting enzymes during traditional cheese manufacturing. This clotting activity is due to aspartic proteases (APs) found in the cardoon flower, named cyprosins and cardosins. APs from cardoon flowers display a great degree of heterogeneity, resulting in variable milk clotting activities and directly influencing the final product. Producing these APs using alternative platforms such as bacteria or yeast has proven challenging, which is hampering their implementation on an industrial scale. We have developed tobacco BY2 cell lines as an alternative plant-based platform for the production of cardosin B. These cultures successfully produced active cardosin B and a purification pipeline was developed to obtain isolated cardosin B. The enzyme displayed proteolytic activity towards milk caseins and milk clotting activity under standard cheese manufacturing conditions. We also identified an unprocessed form of cardosin B and further investigated its activation process. The use of protease-specific inhibitors suggested a possible role for a cysteine protease in cardosin B processing. Mass spectrometry analysis identified three cysteine proteases containing a granulin-domain as candidates for cardosin B processing. These findings suggest an interaction between these two groups of proteases and contribute to an understanding of the mechanisms behind the regulation and processing of plant APs. This work also paves the way for the use of tobacco BY2 cells as an alternative production system for active cardosins and represents an important advancement towards the industrial production of cardoon APs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14501
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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