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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Orthogonal protein purification facilitated by a small bispecific affinity tag

Johan Nilvebrant, Tove Alm, Sophia Hober
Journal of Visualized Experiments: JoVE 2012, (59)
22297419
Due to the high costs associated with purification of recombinant proteins the protocols need to be rationalized. For high-throughput efforts there is a demand for general methods that do not require target protein specific optimization . To achieve this, purification tags that genetically can be fused to the gene of interest are commonly used. The most widely used affinity handle is the hexa-histidine tag, which is suitable for purification under both native and denaturing conditions. The metabolic burden for producing the tag is low, but it does not provide as high specificity as competing affinity chromatography based strategies. Here, a bispecific purification tag with two different binding sites on a 46 amino acid, small protein domain has been developed. The albumin-binding domain is derived from Streptococcal protein G and has a strong inherent affinity to human serum albumin (HSA). Eleven surface-exposed amino acids, not involved in albumin-binding, were genetically randomized to produce a combinatorial library. The protein library with the novel randomly arranged binding surface (Figure 1) was expressed on phage particles to facilitate selection of binders by phage display technology. Through several rounds of biopanning against a dimeric Z-domain derived from Staphylococcal protein A, a small, bispecific molecule with affinity for both HSA and the novel target was identified. The novel protein domain, referred to as ABDz1, was evaluated as a purification tag for a selection of target proteins with different molecular weight, solubility and isoelectric point. Three target proteins were expressed in Escherishia coli with the novel tag fused to their N-termini and thereafter affinity purified. Initial purification on either a column with immobilized HSA or Z-domain resulted in relatively pure products. Two-step affinity purification with the bispecific tag resulted in substantial improvement of protein purity. Chromatographic media with the Z-domain immobilized, for example MabSelect SuRe, are readily available for purification of antibodies and HSA can easily be chemically coupled to media to provide the second matrix. This method is especially advantageous when there is a high demand on purity of the recovered target protein. The bifunctionality of the tag allows two different chromatographic steps to be used while the metabolic burden on the expression host is limited due to the small size of the tag. It provides a competitive alternative to so called combinatorial tagging where multiple tags are used in combination.

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