Eliot M Herman
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-threaten- ing disease that is frequently treated with the surgical removal of diseased and dead tis- sues. 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 lev- els biologically relevant and demonstrated its comparable activity to commercially available EGF. Transgenic soybean seeds expressing a seed-specific codon optimized gene encod- ing 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 anal- ysis indicates that the inserted EGF is the same as the human EGF protein. Phosphoryla- tion 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.