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Improved Photocleavable Proteins with Faster and More Efficient Dissociation

By Xiaocen Lu, Yurong Wen, Shuce Zhang, Wei Zhang, Yilun Chen, Yi Shen, Joanne Lemieux, Robert E. Campbell

Posted 10 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.10.419556

The photocleavable protein (PhoCl) is a green-to-red photoconvertible fluorescent protein that, when illuminated with violet light, undergoes main chain cleavage followed by spontaneous dissociation of the resulting fragments. The first generation PhoCl (PhoCl1) exhibited a relative slow rate of dissociation, potentially limiting its utilities for optogenetic control of cell physiology. In this work, we report the X-ray crystal structures of the PhoCl1 green state, red state, and cleaved empty barrel. Using structure-guided engineering and directed evolution, we have developed PhoCl2c with higher contrast ratio and PhoCl2f with faster dissociation. We characterized the performance of these new variants as purified proteins and expressed in cultured cells. Our results demonstrate that PhoCl2 variants exhibit faster and more efficient dissociation, which should enable improved optogenetic manipulations of protein localization and protein-protein interactions in living cells.

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