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J Am Chem Soc. 2013 Sep 18;135(37):13988-97. doi: 10.1021/ja4076452. Epub 2013 Sep 9.

Controlling macromolecular topology with genetically encoded SpyTag-SpyCatcher chemistry.

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Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, California 91125, United States.


Control of molecular topology constitutes a fundamental challenge in macromolecular chemistry. Here we describe the synthesis and characterization of artificial elastin-like proteins (ELPs) with unconventional nonlinear topologies including circular, tadpole, star, and H-shaped proteins using genetically encoded SpyTag-SpyCatcher chemistry. SpyTag is a short polypeptide that binds its protein partner SpyCatcher and forms isopeptide bonds under physiological conditions. Sequences encoding SpyTag and SpyCatcher can be strategically placed into ELP genes to direct post-translational topological modification in situ. Placement of SpyTag at the N-terminus and SpyCatcher at the C-terminus directs formation of circular ELPs. Induction of expression at 16 °C with 10 μM IPTG yields 80% monomeric cyclic protein. When SpyTag is placed in the middle of the chain, it exhibits an even stronger tendency toward cyclization, yielding up to 94% monomeric tadpole proteins. Telechelic ELPs containing either SpyTag or SpyCatcher can be expressed, purified, and then coupled spontaneously upon mixing in vitro. Block proteins, 3-arm or 4-arm star proteins, and H-shaped proteins have been prepared, with the folded CnaB2 domain that results from the SpyTag-SpyCatcher reaction as the molecular core or branch junction. The modular character of the SpyTag-SpyCatcher strategy should make it useful for preparing nonlinear macromolecules of diverse sequence and structure.

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