The β-glucosidase, which hydrolyzes the β(1–4) glucosidic linkage of disaccharides, oligosaccharides and glucose-substituted molecules, has been used in many biotechnological applications. The current commercial source of β-glucosidase is mainly microbial fermentation. Plants have been developed as bioreactors to produce various kinds of proteins including β-glucosidase because of the potential low cost. Sulfolobus solfataricus is a thermoacidophilic archaeon that can grow optimally at high temperature, around 80 °C, and pH 2–4. We overexpressed the β-glucosidase gene from S. solfataricus in transgenic tobacco via Agrobacteria-mediated transformation. Three transgenic tobacco lines with β-glucosidase gene expression driven by the rbcS promoter were obtained, and the recombinant proteins were accumulated in chloroplasts, endoplasmic reticulum and vacuoles up to 1%, 0.6% and 0.3% of total soluble protein, respectively. By stacking the transgenes via crossing distinct transgenic events, the level of β-glucosidase in plants could further increase. The plant-expressed β-glucosidase had optimal activity at 80 °C and pH 5–6. In addition, the plant-expressed β-glucosidase showed high thermostability; on heat pre-treatment at 80 °C for 2 h, approximately 70% residual activity remained. Furthermore, wind-dried leaf tissues of transgenic plants showed good stability in short-term storage at room temperature, with β-glucosidase activity of about 80% still remaining after 1 week of storage as compared with fresh leaf. Furthermore, we demonstrated the possibility of using the archaebacterial β-glucosidase gene as a reporter in plants based on alternative β-galactosidase activity.
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