Expression of eukaryotic membrane proteins in eukaryotic and prokaryotic hosts

Athanasios Kesidis, Peer Depping, Alexis Lodé, Afroditi Vaitsopoulou, Roslyn M. Bill, Alan D. Goddard, Alice J. Rothnie

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The production of membrane proteins of high purity and in satisfactory yields is crucial for biomedical research. Due to their involvement in various cellular processes, membrane proteins have increasingly become some of the most important drug targets in modern times. Therefore, their structural and functional characterization is a high priority. However, protein expression has always been more challenging for membrane proteins than for soluble proteins. In this review, we present four of the most commonly-used expression systems for eukaryotic membrane proteins. We describe the benefits and drawbacks of bacterial, yeast, insect and mammalian cells. In addition, we describe the different features (growth rate, yield, post-translational modifications) of each expression system, and how they are influenced by the construct design and modifications of the target gene. Cost-effective and fast-growing E. coli is mostly selected for the production of small, simple membrane proteins that, if possible, do not require post-translational modifications but has the potential for the production of bigger proteins as well. Yeast hosts are advantageous for larger and more complex proteins but for the most complex ones, insect or mammalian cells are used as they are the only hosts able to perform all the post-translational modifications found in human cells. A combination of rational construct design and host cell choice can dramatically improve membrane protein production processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-18
Number of pages16
Early online date10 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


Dive into the research topics of 'Expression of eukaryotic membrane proteins in eukaryotic and prokaryotic hosts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this