Azatryptophans as tools to study polarity requirements for folding of green fluorescent protein.

Research paper by Michael Georg MG Hoesl, Maud M Larregola, Haissi H Cui, Nediljko N Budisa

Indexed on: 16 Jul '10Published on: 16 Jul '10Published in: Journal of Peptide Science


Aequorea victoria green fluorescent protein and its widely used mutants enhanced green fluorescent protein and enhanced cyan fluorescent protein (ECFP) are ideal target proteins to study protein folding. The spectral signals of their chromophores are directly correlated with the folding status of the surrounding protein matrix. Previous studies revealed that tryptophan at position 57 (Trp57) plays a crucial role for the green fluorescent protein's structural and functional integrity. To precisely dissect its role in ECFP folding, we performed its substitution with the isosteric analogs 4-azatryptophan [(4-Aza)Trp] and 7-azatryptophan [(7-Aza)Trp]. Although Trp is moderately hydrophobic, these isosteric analogs are hydrophilic, which makes them an almost ideal tool to study the role of Trp57 in ECFP folding. We achieved high-level expression of both (4-Aza)Trp-ECFP and (7-Aza)Trp-ECFP. However, great portions (70-90%) of protein samples were insoluble and did not contain a maturated chromophore. All attempts to refold the insoluble protein fractions failed. Nevertheless, low amounts of fully labeled, soluble, chromophore containing fractions with altered spectral features were also isolated and identified. The most probable reason for the high yield of misfolding is the introduction of strong hydrophilicity at position 57 which strongly interferes with productive and efficient folding of ECFP. In addition, the results support a strong correlation between translational kinetics of non-canonical amino acids in the ribosome and in vivo folding of the related modified protein sequence.