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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Site-specific labeling of proteins for single-molecule FRET by combining chemical and enzymatic modification

  • Author(s): Jager, M
  • Nir, E
  • Weiss, S
  • et al.

An often limiting factor for studying protein folding by single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) is the ability to site-specifically introduce a photostable organic FRET donor (D) and a complementary acceptor (A) into a polypeptide chain. Using alternating-laser excitation and chymotrypsin inhibitor 2 as a model, we show that chemical labeling of a unique cysteine, followed by enzymatic modification of a reactive glutamine in an N-terminally appended substrate sequence recognition tag for transglutaminase (TGase) affords stoichiometrically D-/A-labeled protein suitable for single-molecule FRET experiments. Thermodynamic data indicate that neither the presence of the TGase tag nor D/A labeling perturbs protein stability. As the N terminus in proteins is typically solvent accessible, a TGase tag can (in principle) be appended to any protein of interest by genetic engineering. Two-step chemical/enzymatic labeling may thus represent a simple, low-cost, and widely available strategy for DIA labeling of proteins for FRET-based single-molecule protein folding studies, even for non-protein-experts laboratories.

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