The journal of physical chemistry. B

Evaluation of Genetically Encoded Chemical Tags as Orthogonal Fluorophore Labeling Tools for Single-Molecule FRET Applications.

PMID 25978145


Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) is a superb technique for measuring conformational changes of proteins on the single molecule level (smFRET) in real time. It requires introducing a donor and acceptor fluorophore pair at specific locations on the protein molecule of interest, which has often been a challenging task. By using two different self-labeling chemical tags, such as Halo-, TMP-, SNAP- and CLIP-tags, orthogonal labeling may be achieved rapidly and reliably. However, these comparatively large tags add extra distance and flexibility between the desired labeling location on the protein and the fluorophore position, which may affect the results. To systematically characterize chemical tags for smFRET measurement applications, we took the SNAP-tag/CLIP-tag combination as a model system and fused a flexible unstructured peptide, rigid polyproline peptides of various lengths, and the calcium sensor protein calmodulin between the tags. We could reliably identify length variations as small as four residues in the polyproline peptide. In the calmodulin system, the added length introduced by these tags was even beneficial for revealing subtle conformational changes upon variation of the buffer conditions. This approach opens up new possibilities for studying conformational dynamics, especially in large protein systems that are difficult to specifically conjugate with fluorophores.