In vivo engineering of proteins with nitrogen-containing tryptophan analogs

Abstract

Recently, it has become possible to reprogram the protein synthesis machinery such that numerous noncanonical amino acids can be translated into target sequences yielding tailor-made proteins. The canonical amino acid tryptophan (Trp) encoded by a single nucleotide triplet (UGG) is a particularly interesting target for protein engineering and design. Trp-residues can be substituted with a variety of analogs and surrogates generated biosynthetically or by organic chemistry. Among them, nitrogen-containing tryptophan analogs occupy a central position, as they have distinct chemical properties in comparison with aliphatic amines and imines. They resemble purine bases of DNA and share their capacity for pH-sensitive intramolecular charge transfer. These special properties of the analogs can be directly transmitted into related protein structures via in vivo ribosome-mediated translation. Proteins expressed in this way are further endowed with unique properties like new spectral, altered redox and titration features or might serve as useful biomaterials. We present and discuss current works and future developments in protein engineering with nitrogen-containing tryptophan analogs and related compounds as well as their relevance for academic and applicative research.

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Correspondence to Nediljko Budisa.

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The term noncanonical amino acid refers to an amino acid that does not belong, in contrast to a canonical amino acid, to the genetically encoded, proteinogenic amino acids. The term analog defines a strict isosteric exchange of a canonical/noncanonical amino acid (e.g., tryptophan/azatryptophan), while the term surrogate defines a nonisosteric change (e.g., tryptophan/azulene). Mutant denotes a protein in which the wild-type sequence was changed by site-directed mutagenesis (codon manipulation on the DNA level) within the repertoire of the standard amino acids. Variant denotes a protein in which one or more canonical amino acids derived from a wild-type or a mutant sequence were replaced by a noncanonical one (expanded amino acid repertoire, codon reassignment on the protein translation level).

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Lepthien, S., Wiltschi, B., Bolic, B. et al. In vivo engineering of proteins with nitrogen-containing tryptophan analogs. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 73, 740–754 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-006-0665-2

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Keywords

  • Amino- and azatryptophan
  • Genetic code
  • Nucleobase fluorescence
  • Protein design and engineering
  • DNA mimicry