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J Am Chem Soc. 2002 May 29;124(21):6063-76.

New biarsenical ligands and tetracysteine motifs for protein labeling in vitro and in vivo: synthesis and biological applications.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Biomedical Sciences Program, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0647, USA.


We recently introduced a method (Griffin, B. A.; Adams, S. R.; Tsien, R. Y. Science 1998, 281, 269-272 and Griffin, B. A.; Adams, S. R.; Jones, J.; Tsien, R. Y. Methods Enzymol. 2000, 327, 565-578) for site-specific fluorescent labeling of recombinant proteins in living cells. The sequence Cys-Cys-Xaa-Xaa-Cys-Cys, where Xaa is an noncysteine amino acid, is genetically fused to or inserted within the protein, where it can be specifically recognized by a membrane-permeant fluorescein derivative with two As(III) substituents, FlAsH, which fluoresces only after the arsenics bind to the cysteine thiols. We now report kinetics and dissociation constants ( approximately 10(-11) M) for FlAsH binding to model tetracysteine peptides. Affinities in vitro and detection limits in living cells are optimized with Xaa-Xaa = Pro-Gly, suggesting that the preferred peptide conformation is a hairpin rather than the previously proposed alpha-helix. Many analogues of FlAsH have been synthesized, including ReAsH, a resorufin derivative excitable at 590 nm and fluorescing in the red. Analogous biarsenicals enable affinity chromatography, fluorescence anisotropy measurements, and electron-microscopic localization of tetracysteine-tagged proteins.

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