Chemical fluorophores offer tremendous size and photophysical advantages over fluorescent proteins but are much more challenging to target to specific cellular proteins. Here, we used Rosetta-based computation to design a fluorophore ligase that accepts the red dye resorufin, starting from Escherichia coli lipoic acid ligase. X-ray crystallography showed that the design closely matched the experimental structure. Resorufin ligase catalyzed the site-specific and covalent attachment of resorufin to various cellular proteins genetically fused to a 13-aa recognition peptide in multiple mammalian cell lines and in primary cultured neurons. We used resorufin ligase to perform superresolution imaging of the intermediate filament protein vimentin by stimulated emission depletion and electron microscopies. This work illustrates the power of Rosetta for major redesign of enzyme specificity and introduces a tool for minimally invasive, highly specific imaging of cellular proteins by both conventional and superresolution microscopies.
Deeper understanding of antibiotic-induced physiological responses is critical to identifying means for enhancing our current antibiotic arsenal. Bactericidal antibiotics with diverse targets have been hypothesized to kill bacteria, in part by inducing production of damaging reactive species. This notion has been supported by many groups but has been challenged recently. Here we robustly test the hypothesis using biochemical, enzymatic, and biophysical assays along with genetic and phenotypic experiments. We first used a novel intracellular H2O2 sensor, together with a chemically diverse panel of fluorescent dyes sensitive to an array of reactive species to demonstrate that antibiotics broadly induce redox stress. Subsequent gene-expression analyses reveal that complex antibiotic-induced oxidative stress responses are distinct from canonical responses generated by supraphysiological levels of H2O2. We next developed a method to quantify cellular respiration dynamically and found that bactericidal antibiotics elevate oxygen consumption, indicating significant alterations to bacterial redox physiology. We further show that overexpression of catalase or DNA mismatch repair enzyme, MutS, and antioxidant pretreatment limit antibiotic lethality, indicating that reactive oxygen species causatively contribute to antibiotic killing. Critically, the killing efficacy of antibiotics was diminished under strict anaerobic conditions but could be enhanced by exposure to molecular oxygen or by the addition of alternative electron acceptors, indicating that environmental factors play a role in killing cells physiologically primed for death. This work provides direct evidence that, downstream of their target-specific interactions, bactericidal antibiotics induce complex redox alterations that contribute to cellular damage and death, thus supporting an evolving, expanded model of antibiotic lethality.
Obtaining complete protein inventories for subcellular regions is a challenge that often limits our understanding of cellular function, especially for regions that are impossible to purify and are therefore inaccessible to traditional proteomic analysis. We recently developed a method to map proteomes in living cells with an engineered peroxidase (APEX) that bypasses the need for organellar purification when applied to membrane-bound compartments; however, it was insufficiently specific when applied to unbounded regions that allow APEX-generated radicals to escape. Here, we combine APEX technology with a SILAC-based ratiometric tagging strategy to substantially reduce unwanted background and achieve nanometer spatial resolution. This is applied to map the proteome of the mitochondrial intermembrane space (IMS), which can freely exchange small molecules with the cytosol. Our IMS proteome of 127 proteins has >94% specificity and includes nine newly discovered mitochondrial proteins. This approach will enable scientists to map proteomes of cellular regions that were previously inaccessible.
Extracts and compounds of natural products have potential as alternatives to current Western medicines. However, these products may not be patentable under the statutory requirements because of their naturally-occurring nature. This article analyzes the current patenting practices for natural products in the United States, particularly in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling in Myriad, and suggests an advantageous strategy for patenting these products. Briefly, isolated natural products per se are not patentable in the United States. Therefore, patenting focus should be placed on the modification, formulation, manufacture, and application of natural products. A detailed description of each invention is highly recommended for stronger support and broader coverage of the claims.
This protocol describes an efficient method to site-specifically label cell-surface or purified proteins with chemical probes in two steps: probe incorporation mediated by enzymes (PRIME) followed by chelation-assisted copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC). In the PRIME step, Escherichia coli lipoic acid ligase (LplA) site-specifically attaches a picolyl azide (pAz) derivative to a 13-aa recognition sequence that has been genetically fused onto the protein of interest. Proteins bearing pAz are chemoselectively derivatized with an alkyne-probe conjugate by chelation-assisted CuAAC in the second step. We describe herein the optimized protocols to synthesize pAz to perform PRIME labeling and to achieve CuAAC derivatization of pAz on live cells, fixed cells and purified proteins. Reagent preparations, including synthesis of pAz probes and expression of LplA, take 12 d, whereas the procedure for performing site-specific pAz ligation and CuAAC on cells or on purified proteins takes 40 min-3 h.
Neurexin and neuroligin are transmembrane adhesion proteins that play an important role in organizing the neuronal synaptic cleft. Our lab previously reported a method for imaging the trans-synaptic binding of neurexin and neuroligin called BLINC (Biotin Labeling of INtercellular Contacts). In BLINC, biotin ligase (BirA) is fused to one protein while its 15-amino acid acceptor peptide substrate (AP) is fused to the binding partner. When the two fusion proteins interact across cellular junctions, BirA catalyzes the site-specific biotinylation of AP, which can be read out by staining with streptavidin-fluorophore conjugates. Here, we report that BLINC in neurons cannot be reproduced using the reporter constructs and labeling protocol previously described. We uncover the technical reasons for the lack of reproducibilty and then re-design the BLINC reporters and labeling protocol to achieve neurexin-neuroligin BLINC imaging in neuron cultures. In addition, we introduce a new method, based on lipoic acid ligase instead of biotin ligase, to image trans-cellular neurexin-neuroligin interactions in human embryonic kidney cells and in neuron cultures. This method, called ID-PRIME for Interaction-Dependent PRobe Incorporation Mediated by Enzymes, is more robust than BLINC due to higher surface expression of lipoic acid ligase fusion constructs, gives stronger and more localized labeling, and is more versatile than BLINC in terms of signal readout. ID-PRIME expands the toolkit of methods available to study trans-cellular protein-protein interactions in living systems.
The low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) is a critical determinant of plasma cholesterol levels that internalizes lipoprotein cargo via clathrin-mediated endocytosis. Here, we show that the E3 ubiquitin ligase IDOL stimulates a previously unrecognized, clathrin-independent pathway for LDLR internalization. Real-time single-particle tracking and electron microscopy reveal that IDOL is recruited to the plasma membrane by LDLR, promotes LDLR internalization in the absence of clathrin or caveolae, and facilitates LDLR degradation by shuttling it into the multivesicular body (MVB) protein-sorting pathway. The IDOL-dependent degradation pathway is distinct from that mediated by PCSK9 as only IDOL employs ESCRT (endosomal-sorting complex required for transport) complexes to recognize and traffic LDLR to lysosomes. Small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown of ESCRT-0 (HGS) or ESCRT-I (TSG101) components prevents IDOL-mediated LDLR degradation. We further show that USP8 acts downstream of IDOL to deubiquitinate LDLR and that USP8 is required for LDLR entry into the MVB pathway. These results provide key mechanistic insights into an evolutionarily conserved pathway for the control of lipoprotein receptor expression and cellular lipid uptake.
Microscopy and mass spectrometry (MS) are complementary techniques: The former provides spatiotemporal information in living cells, but only for a handful of recombinant proteins at a time, whereas the latter can detect thousands of endogenous proteins simultaneously, but only in lysed samples. Here, we introduce technology that combines these strengths by offering spatially and temporally resolved proteomic maps of endogenous proteins within living cells. Our method relies on a genetically targetable peroxidase enzyme that biotinylates nearby proteins, which are subsequently purified and identified by MS. We used this approach to identify 495 proteins within the human mitochondrial matrix, including 31 not previously linked to mitochondria. The labeling was exceptionally specific and distinguished between inner membrane proteins facing the matrix versus the intermembrane space (IMS). Several proteins previously thought to reside in the IMS or outer membrane, including protoporphyrinogen oxidase, were reassigned to the matrix by our proteomic data and confirmed by electron microscopy. The specificity of peroxidase-mediated proteomic mapping in live cells, combined with its ease of use, offers biologists a powerful tool for understanding the molecular composition of living cells.
We report a new method, Interaction-Dependent PRobe Incorporation Mediated by Enzymes, or ID-PRIME, for imaging protein-protein interactions (PPIs) inside living cells. ID-PRIME utilizes a mutant of Escherichia coli lipoic acid ligase, LplA(W37V), which can catalyze the covalent ligation of a coumarin fluorophore onto a peptide recognition sequence called LAP1. The affinity between the ligase and LAP1 is tuned such that, when each is fused to a protein partner of interest, LplA(W37V) labels LAP1 with coumarin only when the protein partners to which they are fused bring them together. Coumarin labeling in the absence of such interaction is low or undetectable. Characterization of ID-PRIME in living mammalian cells shows that multiple protein-protein interactions can be imaged (FRB-FKBP, Fos-Jun, and neuroligin-PSD-95), with as little as 10 min of coumarin treatment. The signal intensity and detection sensitivity are similar to those of the widely used fluorescent protein complementation technique (BiFC) for PPI detection, without the disadvantage of irreversible complex trapping. ID-PRIME provides a powerful and complementary approach to existing methods for visualization of PPIs in living cells with spatial and temporal resolution.
Mutation of a gatekeeper residue, tryptophan 37, in E. coli lipoic acid ligase (LplA), expands substrate specificity such that unnatural probes much larger than lipoic acid can be recognized. This approach, however, has not been successful for anionic substrates. An example is the blue fluorophore Pacific Blue, which is isosteric to 7-hydroxycoumarin and yet not recognized by the latters ligase ((W37V)LplA) or any tryptophan 37 point mutant. Here we report the results of a structure-guided, two-residue screening matrix to discover an LplA double mutant, (E20G/W37T)LplA, that ligates Pacific Blue as efficiently as (W37V)LplA ligates 7-hydroxycoumarin. The utility of this Pacific Blue ligase for specific labeling of recombinant proteins inside living cells, on the cell surface, and inside acidic endosomes is demonstrated.
Methods to probe receptor oligomerization are useful to understand the molecular mechanisms of receptor signaling. Here we report a fluorescence imaging method to determine receptor oligomerization state in living cells during endocytic internalization. The wild-type receptor is co-expressed with an internalization-defective mutant, and the internalization kinetics of each are independently monitored. If the receptor internalizes as an oligomer, then the wild-type and mutant isoforms will mutually influence each others trafficking properties, causing co-internalization of the mutant or co-retention of the wild-type at the cell surface. Using this approach, we found that the low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor internalizes as an oligomer into cells, both in the presence and absence of LDL ligand. The internalization kinetics of the wild-type receptor are not changed by LDL binding. We also found that the oligomerization domain of the LDL receptor is located in its cytoplasmic tail.
Heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) is a ligand for EGF receptor (EGFR) and possesses the ability to signal in juxtacrine, autocrine and/or paracrine mode, with these alternatives being governed by the degree of proteolytic release of the ligand. Although the spatial range of diffusion of released HB-EGF is restricted by binding heparan-sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) in the extracellular matrix and/or cellular glycocalyx, ascertaining mechanisms governing non-released HB-EGF localization is also important for understanding its effects. We have employed a new method for independently tracking the localization of the extracellular EGF-like domain of HB-EGF and the cytoplasmic C-terminus. A striking observation was the absence of the HB-EGF transmembrane pro-form from the leading edge of COS-7 cells in a wound-closure assay; instead, this protein localized in regions of cell-cell contact. A battery of detailed experiments found that this localization derives from a trans interaction between extracellular HSPGs and the HB-EGF heparin-binding domain, and that disruption of this interaction leads to increased release of soluble ligand and a switch in cell phenotype from juxtacrine-induced growth inhibition to autocrine-induced proliferation. Our results indicate that extracellular HSPGs serve to sequester the transmembrane pro-form of HB-EGF at the point of cell-cell contact, and that this plays a role in governing the balance between juxtacrine versus autocrine and paracrine signaling.
Biological microscopy would benefit from smaller alternatives to green fluorescent protein for imaging specific proteins in living cells. Here we introduce PRIME (PRobe Incorporation Mediated by Enzymes), a method for fluorescent labeling of peptide-fused recombinant proteins in living cells with high specificity. PRIME uses an engineered fluorophore ligase, which is derived from the natural Escherichia coli enzyme lipoic acid ligase (LplA). Through structure-guided mutagenesis, we created a mutant ligase capable of recognizing a 7-hydroxycoumarin substrate and catalyzing its covalent conjugation to a transposable 13-amino acid peptide called LAP (LplA Acceptor Peptide). We showed that this fluorophore ligation occurs in cells in 10 min and that it is highly specific for LAP fusion proteins over all endogenous mammalian proteins. By genetically targeting the PRIME ligase to specific subcellular compartments, we were able to selectively label spatially distinct subsets of proteins, such as the surface pool of neurexin and the nuclear pool of actin.
The functions of trans-synaptic adhesion molecules, such as neurexin and neuroligin, have been difficult to study due to the lack of methods to directly detect their binding in living neurons. Here, we use biotin labeling of intercellular contacts (BLINC), a method for imaging protein interactions based on interaction-dependent biotinylation of a peptide by E. coli biotin ligase, to visualize neurexin-neuroligin trans-interactions at synapses and study their role in synapse development. We found that both developmental maturation and acute synaptic activity stimulate the growth of neurexin-neuroligin adhesion complexes via a combination of neurexin and neuroligin surface insertion and internalization arrest. Both mechanisms require NMDA receptor activity. We also discovered that disruption of activity-induced neurexin-neuroligin complex growth prevents recruitment of the AMPA receptor, a hallmark of mature synapses. Our results provide support for neurexin-neuroligin function in synapse maturation and introduce a general method to study intercellular protein-protein interactions.
The intracellular, cytosolic, delivery of quantum dots is an important goal for cellular imaging. Recently, a hydrophobic anion, pyrenebutyrate had been proposed to serve as a delivery agent for cationic quantum dots as characterized by confocal microscopy. Using an extracellular quantum dot quencher, QSY-21, as an alternative to confocal microscopy, we demonstrate that quantum dots remain on the cell surface and do not cross the plasma membrane following pyrenebutyrate treatment, a result that is confirmed with transmission electron microscopy. Pyrenebutyrate leads to increased cellular binding of quantum dots rather than intracellular delivery. These results characterize the use of QSY-21 as a quantum dot quencher and highlight the importance of the use of complementary techniques when using confocal microscopy.
Escherichia coli lipoic acid ligase (LplA) catalyzes ATP-dependent covalent ligation of lipoic acid onto specific lysine side chains of three acceptor proteins involved in oxidative metabolism. Our lab has shown that LplA and engineered mutants can ligate useful small-molecule probes such as alkyl azides ( Nat. Biotechnol. 2007 , 25 , 1483 - 1487 ) and photo-cross-linkers ( Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. 2008 , 47 , 7018 - 7021 ) in place of lipoic acid, facilitating imaging and proteomic studies. Both to further our understanding of lipoic acid metabolism, and to improve LplAs utility as a biotechnological platform, we have engineered a novel 13-amino acid peptide substrate for LplA. LplAs natural protein substrates have a conserved beta-hairpin structure, a conformation that is difficult to recapitulate in a peptide, and thus we performed in vitro evolution to engineer the LplA peptide substrate, called "LplA Acceptor Peptide" (LAP). A approximately 10(7) library of LAP variants was displayed on the surface of yeast cells, labeled by LplA with either lipoic acid or bromoalkanoic acid, and the most efficiently labeled LAP clones were isolated by fluorescence activated cell sorting. Four rounds of evolution followed by additional rational mutagenesis produced a "LAP2" sequence with a k(cat)/K(m) of 0.99 muM(-1) min(-1), >70-fold better than our previous rationally designed 22-amino acid LAP1 sequence (Nat. Biotechnol. 2007, 25, 1483-1487), and only 8-fold worse than the k(cat)/K(m) values of natural lipoate and biotin acceptor proteins. The kinetic improvement over LAP1 allowed us to rapidly label cell surface peptide-fused receptors with quantum dots.
Release of cell surface-bound ligands by A-Disintegrin-And-Metalloprotease (ADAM) transmembrane metalloproteases is essential for signalling by cytokine, cell adhesion, and tyrosine kinase receptors. For Eph receptor ligands, it provides the switch between cell-cell adhesion and repulsion. Ligand shedding is tightly controlled by intrinsic tyrosine kinase activity, which for Eph receptors relies on the release of an inhibitory interaction of the cytoplasmic juxtamembrane segment with the kinase domain. However, a mechanism linking kinase and sheddase activities had remained elusive. We demonstrate that it is a membrane-proximal localisation of the latent kinase domain that prevents ephrin ligand shedding in trans. Fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy and electron tomography reveal that activation extends the Eph receptor tyrosine kinase intracellular domain away from the cell membrane into a conformation that facilitates productive association with ADAM10. Accordingly, EphA3 mutants with constitutively-released kinase domains efficiently support shedding, even when their kinase is disabled. Our data suggest that this phosphorylation-activated conformational switch of EphA3 directly controls ADAM-mediated shedding.
We present a methodology for targeting quantum dots to specific proteins on living cells in two steps. In the first step, Escherichia coli lipoic acid ligase (LplA) site-specifically attaches 10-bromodecanoic acid onto a 13 amino acid recognition sequence that is genetically fused to a protein of interest. In the second step, quantum dots derivatized with HaloTag, a modified haloalkane dehalogenase, react with the ligated bromodecanoic acid to form a covalent adduct. We found this targeting method to be specific, fast, and fully orthogonal to a previously reported and analogous quantum dot targeting method using E. coli biotin ligase and streptavidin. We used these two methods in combination for two-color quantum dot visualization of different proteins expressed on the same cell or on neighboring cells. Both methods were also used to track single molecules of neurexin, a synaptic adhesion protein, to measure its lateral diffusion in the presence of neuroligin, its trans-synaptic adhesion partner.
Electron microscopy (EM) is the standard method for imaging cellular structures with nanometer resolution, but existing genetic tags are inactive in most cellular compartments or require light and can be difficult to use. Here we report the development of APEX, a genetically encodable EM tag that is active in all cellular compartments and does not require light. APEX is a monomeric 28-kDa peroxidase that withstands strong EM fixation to give excellent ultrastructural preservation. We demonstrate the utility of APEX for high-resolution EM imaging of a variety of mammalian organelles and specific proteins using a simple and robust labeling procedure. We also fused APEX to the N or C terminus of the mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU), a recently identified channel whose topology is disputed. These fusions give EM contrast exclusively in the mitochondrial matrix, suggesting that both the N and C termini of MCU face the matrix. Because APEX staining is not dependent on light activation, APEX should make EM imaging of any cellular protein straightforward, regardless of the size or thickness of the specimen.
A screen of Trp37 mutants of Escherichia coli lipoic acid ligase (LplA) revealed enzymes capable of ligating an aryl-aldehyde or aryl-hydrazine substrate to LplAs 13-residue acceptor peptide. Once site-specifically attached to recombinant proteins fused to this peptide, aryl-aldehydes could be chemoselectively derivatized with hydrazine-probe conjugates, and aryl-hydrazines could be derivatized in an analogous manner with aldehyde-probe conjugates. Such two-step labeling was demonstrated for AlexaFluor568 targeting to monovalent streptavidin in vitro, and to neurexin-1? on the surface of living mammalian cells. To further highlight this technique, we labeled the low-density lipoprotein receptor on the surface of live cells with fluorescent phycoerythrin protein to allow single-molecule imaging and tracking over time.
Methods for targeting of small molecules to cellular proteins can allow imaging with fluorophores that are smaller, brighter, and more photostable than fluorescent proteins. Previously, we reported targeting of the blue fluorophore coumarin to cellular proteins fused to a 13-amino acid recognition sequence (LAP), catalyzed by a mutant of the Escherichia coli enzyme lipoic acid ligase (LplA). Here, we extend LplA-based labeling to green- and red-emitting fluorophores by employing a two-step targeting scheme. First, we found that the W37I mutant of LplA catalyzes site-specific ligation of 10-azidodecanoic acid to LAP in cells, in nearly quantitative yield after 30 min. Second, we evaluated a panel of five different cyclooctyne structures and found that fluorophore conjugates to aza-dibenzocyclooctyne (ADIBO) gave the highest and most specific derivatization of azide-conjugated LAP in cells. However, for targeting of hydrophobic fluorophores such as ATTO 647N, the hydrophobicity of ADIBO was detrimental, and superior targeting was achieved by conjugation to the less hydrophobic monofluorinated cyclooctyne (MOFO). Our optimized two-step enzymatic/chemical labeling scheme was used to tag and image a variety of LAP fusion proteins in multiple mammalian cell lines with diverse fluorophores including fluorescein, rhodamine, Alexa Fluor 568, ATTO 647N, and ATTO 655.
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