Dissecting Multi-protein Signaling Complexes by Bimolecular Complementation Affinity Purification (BiCAP)

Immunology and Infection

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Summary

This manuscript describes the protocol for Bimolecular Complementation Affinity Purification (BiCAP). This novel method facilitates the specific isolation and downstream proteomic characterization of any two interacting proteins, while excluding un-complexed individual proteins as well as complexes formed with competing binding partners.

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Hastings, J. F., Han, J. Z., Shearer, R. F., Kennedy, S. P., Iconomou, M., Saunders, D. N., Croucher, D. R. Dissecting Multi-protein Signaling Complexes by Bimolecular Complementation Affinity Purification (BiCAP). J. Vis. Exp. (136), e57109, doi:10.3791/57109 (2018).

Abstract

The assembly of protein complexes is a central mechanism underlying the regulation of many cell signaling pathways. A major focus of biomedical research is deciphering how these dynamic protein complexes act to integrate signals from multiple sources in order to direct a specific biological response, and how this becomes deregulated in many disease settings. Despite the importance of this key biochemical mechanism, there is a lack of experimental techniques that can facilitate the specific and sensitive deconvolution of these multi-molecular signaling complexes.

Here this shortcoming is addressed through the combination of a protein complementation assay with a conformation-specific nanobody, which we have termed Bimolecular Complementation Affinity Purification (BiCAP). This novel technique facilitates the specific isolation and downstream proteomic characterization of any pair of interacting proteins, to the exclusion of un-complexed individual proteins and complexes formed with competing binding partners.

The BiCAP technique is adaptable to a wide array of downstream experimental assays, and the high degree of specificity afforded by this technique allows more nuanced investigations into the mechanics of protein complex assembly than is currently possible using standard affinity purification techniques.

Introduction

Protein complex assembly is a key process in maintaining the spatiotemporal specificity of many signalling pathways1,2. While the critical nature of this regulatory role is widely recognized, there is a lack of experimental techniques available to scrutinize these complexes. Most interactomics studies focus upon interactions with individual proteins, or the sequential enrichment of individual complex components. Here we present a technique for the isolation of a specific protein dimer while excluding the individual moieties of the component proteins as well as complexes formed with competing binding partners3. We have called this technique Bimolecular Complementation Affinity Purification (BiCAP), as it is a combination of a previously existing protein fragment complementation assay, Bimolecular Fluorescence Complementation (BiFC), with the novel use of a conformation-specific recombinant nanobody towards GFP and its derivatives (see Table of Materials).

A typical protein-fragment complementation assay relies on the expression of "bait" and "prey" proteins fused to split fragments of reporters such as luciferase4, β-galactosidase5, or green fluorescent protein (GFP)6 (Figure 1A). Through the interaction of the bait and prey proteins, the split reporter domains are encouraged to refold into a functional structure, allowing the interaction of the bait and prey proteins to be visualized or quantified. BiCAP was adapted from a version of this technique that made use of fragments of the GFP variant Venus. Fluorescent protein complementation assays are a popular method for visualizing protein-protein interactions in a live cell, but until now have been limited to this one function7. BiCAP represents a significant advance