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University of Wyoming

Transgenic - Alfalfa

We are working on the expression of spider silk proteins in alfalfa. We have chosen to express silk in plants because of its relatively low cost compared to bacterial fermentation. Additionally, plant expression is easy to scale up, and rapid harvesting and processing systems are already well established. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) was specifically chosen because it is a highly adaptable, perennial crop that does not require annual tilling or fertilizer application and is amenable to transformation. More importantly, alfalfa has a relatively high protein content, in that up to 24% of the dry weight of the plant is protein.

Another advantage to alfalfa is that it produces native proteins larger than 100kDa, suggesting that the expression of larger silk proteins may not be problematic. Ideally, we hope to generate 218kg of silk protein/acre/year, which would be sufficient enough quantity to satisfy large, industrial applications! 

Rima Menassa, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Marc-Andre D'Aoust, Medicago
Steven Temple, Forage Genetics International

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