Transgenic Soybean Production of Bioactive Human Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)

Yonghua He, Monica A. Schmidt, Christopher Erwin, Jun Guo, Raphael Sun, Ken Pendarvis, Brad W. Warner, Eliot M.Herman Herman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a devastating condition of premature infants that results from the gut microbiome invading immature intestinal tissues. This results in a life-threatening disease that is frequently treated with the surgical removal of diseased and dead tissues. Epidermal growth factor (EGF), typically found in bodily fluids, such as amniotic fluid, salvia and mother's breast milk, is an intestinotrophic growth factor and may reduce the onset of NEC in premature infants. We have produced human EGF in soybean seeds to levels biologically relevant and demonstrated its comparable activity to commercially available EGF. Transgenic soybean seeds expressing a seed-specific codon optimized gene encoding of the human EGF protein with an added ER signal tag at the N' terminal were produced. Seven independent lines were grown to homozygous and found to accumulate a range of 6.7 +/- 3.1 to 129.0 +/- 36.7 μg EGF/g of dry soybean seed. Proteomic and immunoblot analysis indicates that the inserted EGF is the same as the human EGF protein. Phosphorylation and immunohistochemical assays on the EGF receptor in HeLa cells indicate the EGF protein produced in soybean seed is bioactive and comparable to commercially available human EGF. This work demonstrates the feasibility of using soybean seeds as a biofactory to produce therapeutic agents in a soymilk delivery platform.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0157034
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2016


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