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1.  Development of a Dehalogenase-Based Protein Fusion Tag Capable of Rapid, Selective and Covalent Attachment to Customizable Ligands 
Our fundamental understanding of proteins and their biological significance has been enhanced by genetic fusion tags, as they provide a convenient method for introducing unique properties to proteins so that they can be examinedin isolation. Commonly used tags satisfy many of the requirements for applications relating to the detection and isolation of proteins from complex samples. However, their utility at low concentration becomes compromised if the binding affinity for a detection or capture reagent is not adequate to produce a stable interaction. Here, we describe HaloTag® (HT7), a genetic fusion tag based on a modified haloalkane dehalogenase designed and engineered to overcome the limitation of affinity tags by forming a high affinity, covalent attachment to a binding ligand. HT7 and its ligand have additional desirable features. The tag is relatively small, monomeric, and structurally compatible with fusion partners, while the ligand is specific, chemically simple, and amenable to modular synthetic design. Taken together, the design features and molecular evolution of HT7 have resulted in a superior alternative to common tags for the overexpression, detection, and isolation of target proteins.
PMCID: PMC3520037  PMID: 23248739
Affinity tag; dehalogenase; DhaA; directed evolution; fusion tag; HaloTag; protein capture; protein detection; protein engineering; protein/cellular imaging; protein isolation; protein labeling; protein purification.
2.  Engineering of a wheat germ expression system to provide compatibility with a high throughput pET-based cloning platform 
Wheat germ cell-free methods provide an important approach for the production of eukaryotic proteins. We have developed a protein expression vector for the TNT® SP6 High-Yield Wheat Germ Cell-Free (TNT WGCF) expression system (Promega) that is also compatible with our T7-based Escherichia coli intracellular expression vector pET15_NESG. This allows cloning of the same PCR product into either one of several pET_NESG vectors and this modified WGCF vector (pWGHisAmp) by In-Fusion LIC cloning (Zhu et al. in Biotechniques 43:354–359, 2007). Integration of these two vector systems allowed us to explore the efficacy of the TNT WGCF system by comparing the expression and solubility characteristics of 59 human protein constructs in both WGCF and pET15_NESG E. coli intracellular expression. While only 30% of these human proteins could be produced in soluble form using the pET15_NESG based system, some 70% could be produced in soluble form using the TNT WGCF system. This high success rate underscores the importance of eukaryotic expression host systems like the TNT WGCF system for eukaryotic protein production in a structural genomics sample production pipeline. To further demonstrate the value of this WGCF system in producing protein suitable for structural studies, we scaled up, purified, and analyzed by 2D NMR two 15N-, 13C-enriched human proteins. The results of this study indicate that the TNT WGCF system is a successful salvage pathway for producing samples of difficult-to-express small human proteins for NMR studies, providing an important complementary pathway for eukaryotic sample production in the NESG NMR structure production pipeline.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10969-010-9093-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2921493  PMID: 20574660
Wheat germ cell free expression system; Micro cryo NMR probe; Structural genomics; Eukaryotic protein expression; Isotope enrichment
3.  Cell-Free Expression of Protein Kinase A for Rapid Activity Assays 
Functional protein analysis often calls for lengthy, laborious in vivo protein expression and purification, and can be complicated by the lack of stability of the purified protein. In this study, we demonstrate the feasibility of a simplified procedure for functional protein analysis on magnetic particles using cell-free protein synthesis of the catalytic subunit of human cAMP-dependent protein kinase as a HaloTag® fusion protein. The cell-free protein synthesis systems provide quick access to the protein of interest, while the HaloTag technology provides efficient, covalent protein immobilization of the fusion protein, eliminating the need for further protein purification and minimizing storage-related stability issues. The immobilized cPKA fusion protein is assayed directly on magnetic beads and can be used in inhibitor analyses. The combination of rapid protein synthesis and capture technologies can greatly facilitate the process of protein expression and activity screening, and therefore, can become a valuable tool for functional proteomics studies.
PMCID: PMC2879223  PMID: 20520741
cell-free expression; in vitro translation; HaloTag; protein immobilization; magnetic particles; PKA; kinase
4.  Engineered Luciferase Reporter from a Deep Sea Shrimp Utilizing a Novel Imidazopyrazinone Substrate 
ACS Chemical Biology  2012;7(11):1848-1857.
Bioluminescence methodologies have been extraordinarily useful due to their high sensitivity, broad dynamic range, and operational simplicity. These capabilities have been realized largely through incremental adaptations of native enzymes and substrates, originating from luminous organisms of diverse evolutionary lineages. We engineered both an enzyme and substrate in combination to create a novel bioluminescence system capable of more efficient light emission with superior biochemical and physical characteristics. Using a small luciferase subunit (19 kDa) from the deep sea shrimp Oplophorus gracilirostris, we have improved luminescence expression in mammalian cells ∼2.5 million-fold by merging optimization of protein structure with development of a novel imidazopyrazinone substrate (furimazine). The new luciferase, NanoLuc, produces glow-type luminescence (signal half-life >2 h) with a specific activity ∼150-fold greater than that of either firefly (Photinus pyralis) or Renilla luciferases similarly configured for glow-type assays. In mammalian cells, NanoLuc shows no evidence of post-translational modifications or subcellular partitioning. The enzyme exhibits high physical stability, retaining activity with incubation up to 55 °C or in culture medium for >15 h at 37 °C. As a genetic reporter, NanoLuc may be configured for high sensitivity or for response dynamics by appending a degradation sequence to reduce intracellular accumulation. Appending a signal sequence allows NanoLuc to be exported to the culture medium, where reporter expression can be measured without cell lysis. Fusion onto other proteins allows luminescent assays of their metabolism or localization within cells. Reporter quantitation is achievable even at very low expression levels to facilitate more reliable coupling with endogenous cellular processes.
PMCID: PMC3501149  PMID: 22894855

Results 1-4 (4)