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Identification and characterization of highly active promoters from the fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda

The cell lines derived from the fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda, have been widely used for production of recombinant proteins for applications in both basic research and applications in medicine and agriculture. Promoters from the nucleopolyhedrovirus (NPV) are commonly used in these expression systems. These promoters have some limitations, which may be overcome by using promoters of genes from S. frugiperda. However, information on these promoters is not available. We identified several highly expressed genes from the transcriptomes of S. frugiperda midgut, fat body, epidermis, ovarian cell line (Sf9), and a midgut cell line (Sf17). The activity of potential promoters of 21 highly expressed genes was evaluated in Sf9 and Sf17 cells. Two of these promoters, SfHSC70-P1780 and SfPub-P2009, showed higher activity than commonly used hr5/ie1 (baculovirus enhancer element, hr5 and immediate early gene 1, ie1) promoter. Interestingly, the activity of these two promoters increased after adding hr5 enhancer element. The hr5/SfPub-P2009 promoter performance was evaluated by expressing an exogenous P450 protein in Sf9 cells using a plasmid-based expression system. The activity of this promoter was also evaluated in the FAW by expressing green fluorescence protein using the baculovirus expression system. In both cases, the hr5/SfPub-P2009 promoter performed better than the commonly used hr5/ie1 promoter. These strong endogenous promoters will be useful for studies in S. frugiperda and other lepidopteran insects for multiple applications, including protein expression, genome editing, and transgenic insects.

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