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Unintended inhibition of protein function using GFP nanobodies in human cells

By Cansu Küey, Gabrielle Larocque, Nicholas I. Clarke, Stephen J Royle

Posted 27 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/590984

Tagging a protein-of-interest with GFP using genome editing is a popular approach to study protein function in cell and developmental biology. To avoid re-engineering cell lines or organisms in order to introduce additional tags, functionalized nanobodies that bind GFP can be used to extend the functionality of the GFP tag. We developed functionalized nanobodies, which we termed “dongles”, that could add, for example, an FKBP tag to a GFP-tagged protein-of-interest; enabling knocksideways experiments in GFP knock-in cell lines. The power of knocksideways is that it allows investigators to rapidly switch the protein from an active to an inactive state. We show that dongles allow for effective knocksideways of GFP-tagged proteins in genome-edited human cells. However, we discovered that nanobody binding to dynamin-2-GFP caused inhibition of dynamin function prior to knocksideways. While this limitation might be specific to the protein studied, it was significant enough to convince us not to pursue development of dongle technology further.

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