Recombinant porcine lactoferrin (rPLF) was synthesized in Pichia pastoris using a constitutive promoter from the glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase gene. Strains expressing rPLF with its own signal sequence or with that from the yeast alpha-mating factor (alpha-MF) were able to produce and secrete rPLF, but levels were consistently higher using alpha-MF constructs. In contrast, P. pastoris strains that expressed rPLF without a signal sequence produced the protein in an insoluble intracellular form. Increasing the initial pH of shake-flask culture medium from 6.0 to 7.0 or adding ferric ions to the medium (to 100 microM) resulted in significant improvements in expression of rPLF from P. pastoris. Expression levels (approximately 12 mg/L) were much higher than those observed from Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains (1-2 mg/L). P. pastoris-secreted rPLF was isolated and purified via a one-step simple procedure using a heparin column. The molecular size (78 kDa), isoelectric point (8.8-9.0), N-terminal amino acid sequence, and iron-binding capability of rPLF were each similar to that of native milk PLF. Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science (USA).