Specific Covalent Labeling of Recombinant Protein Molecules Inside Live Cells

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Science  10 Jul 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5374, pp. 269-272
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5374.269

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Recombinant proteins containing four cysteines at the i,i + 1, i + 4, and i + 5 positions of an α helix were fluorescently labeled in living cells by extracellular administration of 4′,5′-bis(1,3,2-dithioarsolan-2-yl)fluorescein. This designed small ligand is membrane-permeant and nonfluorescent until it binds with high affinity and specificity to the tetracysteine domain. Such in situ labeling adds much less mass than does green fluorescent protein and offers greater versatility in attachment sites as well as potential spectroscopic and chemical properties. This system provides a recipe for slightly modifying a target protein so that it can be singled out from the many other proteins inside live cells and fluorescently stained by small nonfluorescent dye molecules added from outside the cells.

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