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Nat Methods. 2005 Mar;2(3):201-6. Epub 2005 Feb 17.

Protein photo-cross-linking in mammalian cells by site-specific incorporation of a photoreactive amino acid.

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Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.


We report a method of photo-cross-linking proteins in mammalian cells, which is based on site-specific incorporation of a photoreactive amino acid, p-benzoyl-L-phenylalanine (pBpa), through the use of an expanded genetic code. To analyze the cell signaling interactions involving the adaptor protein Grb2, pBpa was incorporated in its Src homology 2 (SH2) domain. The human GRB2 gene with an amber codon was introduced into Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, together with the genes for the Bacillus stearothermophilus suppressor tRNA(Tyr) and a pBpa-specific variant of Escherichia coli tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase (TyrRS). The Grb2 variant with pBpa in the amber position was synthesized when pBpa was included in the growth medium. Upon exposure of cells to 365-nm light, protein variants containing pBpa in the positions proximal to the ligand-binding pocket were cross-linked with the transiently expressed epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor in the presence of an EGF stimulus. Cross-linked complexes with endogenous proteins were also detected. In vivo photo-cross-linking with pBpa incorporated in proteins will be useful for studying protein-protein interactions in mammalian cells.

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