Send to

Choose Destination
Elife. 2016 May 20;5. pii: e15312. doi: 10.7554/eLife.15312.

Detection and manipulation of live antigen-expressing cells using conditionally stable nanobodies.

Author information

Department of Genetics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States.
Department of Ophthalmology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States.
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States.
Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States.


The ability to detect and/or manipulate specific cell populations based upon the presence of intracellular protein epitopes would enable many types of studies and applications. Protein binders such as nanobodies (Nbs) can target untagged proteins (antigens) in the intracellular environment. However, genetically expressed protein binders are stable regardless of antigen expression, complicating their use for applications that require cell-specificity. Here, we created a conditional system in which the stability of an Nb depends upon an antigen of interest. We identified Nb framework mutations that can be used to rapidly create destabilized Nbs. Fusion of destabilized Nbs to various proteins enabled applications in living cells, such as optogenetic control of neural activity in specific cell types in the mouse brain, and detection of HIV-infected human cells by flow cytometry. These approaches are generalizable to other protein binders, and enable the rapid generation of single-polypeptide sensors and effectors active in cells expressing specific intracellular epitopes.


GFP; HIV-1; antibody engineering; developmental biology; human; mouse; nanobodies; neuroscience; stem cells

Comment in

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center