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Mol Biol Cell. 2004 Dec;15(12):5616-22. Epub 2004 Oct 6.

Short tetracysteine tags to beta-tubulin demonstrate the significance of small labels for live cell imaging.

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  • 1Department of NanoBiophotonics, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Genetically encoded tags are of fundamental importance for live cell imaging. We show that small tetracysteine (TetCys) tags can be highly advantageous for the functionality of the host protein compared with large fluorescent protein tags. One to three concatenated small TetCys tags as well as the large green fluorescent protein (GFP) were fused by integrative epitope tagging to the C terminus of beta-tubulin (Tub2) in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The increasing tag size correlated with functional interference to the host protein. Tub2 tagged with either 1 x TetCys (10 amino acids [aa]) or 2 x TetCys (20 aa) was able to substitute Tub2 in haploid cells. In contrast, C-terminal tagging of Tub2 with 3 x TetCys (29 aa) or with GFP (244 aa) resulted in nonviable haploid cells. Cells expressing Tub2-1 x TetCys or Tub2-2 x TetCys were stained with FlAsH, which selectively binds to the TetCys-tag. The stained cells displayed dynamic FlAsH-labeled microtubules and low cellular background fluorescence. The presented approach to tag open reading frames (ORFs) at their native loci with very small TetCys-tags and the subsequent visualization of the tagged proteins in vivo can be extended in principle to any ORF in S. cerevisiae.

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