New Vectors for Urea-Inducible Recombinant Protein Production

Joanne Hothersall*, Alexander Osgerby, Rita E Godfrey, Tim W Overton, Stephen J W Busby, Douglas F Browning*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have developed a novel urea-inducible recombinant protein production system by exploiting the Proteus mirabilis urease ureR-ureD promoter region and the ureR AraC-family transcriptional regulator. Experiments using the expression of β-galactosidase and green fluorescent protein (GFP) showed that promoter activity is tightly regulated and that varying the concentration of urea can give up to 100-fold induction. Production of proteins of biopharmaceutical interest has been demonstrated, including human growth hormone (hGH), a single chain antibody fragment (scFv) against interleukin-1β and a potential Neisserial vaccine candidate (BamAENm). Expression levels can be fine-tuned by temperature and different urea concentrations, and can be induced with readily available garden fertilisers and even urine. As urea is an inexpensive, stable inducer, a urea-induced expression system has the potential to considerably reduce the costs of large-scale recombinant protein production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-96
Number of pages8
JournalNew Biotechnology
Early online date20 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 25 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Funding statement: J.H. was generously funded by an Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst (Innovate UK, BBSRC, EPSRC) (BB/M018261/1) to support the translation, development and commercialisation of innovative Industrial Biotechnology processes, and, by a BBSRC IAA Follow-on-Fund award (BBSRC IAA BB/S506709/1). D.F.B was supported by BBSRC grants BB/M018261/1 and BB/R017689/1. AO was funded by a BBSRC PhD studentship as part of the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP).


  • Escherichia coli
  • Recombinant protein production
  • Biopharmaceuticals
  • Transcription regulation
  • ureR
  • Urea


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