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Multicolor protein labeling in living cells using mutant β-lactamase-tag technology

Shuji Watanabe, Shin Mizukami, Yuichiro Hori, Kazuya Kikuchi
Bioconjugate Chemistry 2010 December 15, 21 (12): 2320-6
Protein labeling techniques using small molecule probes have become important as practical alternatives to the use of fluorescent proteins (FPs) in live cell imaging. These labeling techniques can be applied to more sophisticated fluorescence imaging studies such as pulse-chase imaging. Previously, we reported a novel protein labeling system based on the combination of a mutant β-lactamase (BL-tag) with coumarin-derivatized probes and its application to specific protein labeling on cell membranes. In this paper, we demonstrated the broad applicability of our BL-tag technology to live cell imaging by the development of a series of fluorescence labeling probes for this technology, and the examination of the functions of target proteins. These new probes have a fluorescein or rhodamine chromophore, each of which provides enhanced photophysical properties relative to coumarins for the purpose of cellular imaging. These probes were used to specifically label the BL-tag protein and could be used with other small molecule fluorescent probes. Simultaneous labeling using our new probes with another protein labeling technology was found to be effective. In addition, it was also confirmed that this technology has a low interference with respect to the functions of target proteins in comparison to GFP. Highly specific and fast covalent labeling properties of this labeling technology is expected to provide robust tools for investigating protein functions in living cells, and future applications can be improved by combining the BL-tag technology with conventional imaging techniques. The combination of probe synthesis and molecular biology techniques provides the advantages of both techniques and can enable the design of experiments that cannot currently be performed using existing tools.


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