Novel 1: 1 Labeling and Purification Process for C-Terminal Thioester and Single Cysteine Recombinant Proteins Using Generic Peptidic Toolbox Reagents

Christophe F. Portal, Jan-Marcus Seifert, Christof Buehler, Nicole-Claudia Meisner-Kober, Manfred Auer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We developed a versatile set of chemical labeling reagents which allow dye ligation to the C-terminus of a protein or a single internal cysteine and target purification in a simple two-step process. This simple process results in a fully 1:1 labeled conjugate suitable for all quantitative fluorescence spectroscopy and imaging experiments. We refer to a "generic labeling toolbox" because of the flexibility to choose one of many available dyes, spacers of different lengths and compositions which increase the target solubility, a variety of affinity purification tags, and different cleavage chemistries to release the 1:1 labeled proteins. Studying protein function in vitro or in the context of live cells and organisms is of vital importance in biological research. Although label free detection technologies gain increasing interest in molecular recognition science, fluorescence spectroscopy is still the most often used detection technique for assays and screens both in academic as well as in industrial groups. For generations, fluorescence spectroscopists have labeled their proteins of interest with small fluorescent dyes by random chemical linking on the proteins' exposed lysines and cysteines. Chemical reactions with a certain excess of activated esters or maleimides of longer wavelength dyes hardly ever result in quantitative labeling of the target protein. Most of the time, more than one exposed amino acid side chain reacts. This results in a mixture of dye protein complexes of different labeling stoichiometries and labeling sites. Only mass spectrometry allows resolving the precise chemical composition of the conjugates. In "classical" ensemble averaging fluorescent experiments, these labeled proteins are still useful, and quantification of, e.g., ligand binding experiments, is achieved via knowledge of the overall protein concentration and a fluorescent signal change which is proportional to the amount of complex formed. With the development of fluorescence fluctuation analysis techniques working at single molecule resolution, like fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), fluorescence cross correlation spectroscopy (FCCS), fluorescence intensity diffusion analysis (FIDA), etc., it became important to work with homogeneously labeled target proteins. Each molecule participating in a binding equilibrium should be detectable when it freely fluctuates through the confocal focus of a microscope. The measured photon burst for each transition contains information about the size and the stoichiometry of a protein complex. Therefore, it is important to work with reagents that contain an exact number of tracers per protein at identical positions. The ideal fluorescent tracer protein complex stoichiometry is 1:1. While genetic tags such as fluorescent proteins (FPs) are widely used to detect proteins, FPs have several limitations compared to chemical tags. For example, FPs cannot easily compete with organic dyes in the flexibility of modification and spectral range; moreover, FPs have disadvantages in brightness and photostability and are therefore not ideal for most biochemical single molecule studies. We present the synthesis of a series of exemplaric toolbox reagents and labeling results on three target proteins which were needed for high throughput screening experiments using fluorescence fluctuation analysis at single molecule resolution.

On one target, Hu-antigen R (HuR), we demonstrated the activity of the 1:1 labeled protein in ribonucleic acid (RNA) binding, and the ease of resolving the stoichiometry of an RNA-HuR complex using the same dye on protein and RNA by Fluorescence Intensity Multiple Distribution Analysis (FWIDA) detection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1213-1222
Number of pages10
JournalBioconjugate chemistry
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2014

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