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I am doing research in a lab and I am relatively new to wet lab work. Many experiments that people are doing in my lab include overexpressing a protein of interest from another species (e.g. mouse) into CHO cells via transfection. I have learnt that these are examples of heterologous expression systems.

I was wondering in general, what are the advantages of heterologous expression systems? I have read that you can use them to study the function of a protein in a well-defined, controllable environment. However, I was wondering what other benefits/uses are there to these kinds of experiments?

Any insights are appreciated.

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  • It takes significant resources to establish a cell line. More efficient to use existing lines.

  • Often cell lines used for expression grow faster. This is why so many proteins are expressed in E coli - they only take a day to grow vs the week or two for mammalian cells, meaning you get a much faster learning iteration in your research.

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To add on @ user47696’s answer, heterologous expression systems also enable large-scale production of recombinant proteins, particularly in the E. coli and the yeast systems. Foreign hosts may also provide a system that is simpler than the natural sources for the studies on proteins' functions.

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