Main content area

Tolerance of a Knotted Near-Infrared Fluorescent Protein to Random Circular Permutation

Pandey, Naresh, Kuypers, Brianna E., Nassif, Barbara, Thomas, Emily E., Alnahhas, Razan N., Segatori, Laura, Silberg, Jonathan J.
Biochemistry 2016 v.55 no.27 pp. 3763-3773
Escherichia coli, bacteria, biosensors, denaturation, fluorescence, fluorescent proteins, gene expression, image analysis, mutagenesis, peptides, photoreceptors, tail, tissue culture
Bacteriophytochrome photoreceptors (BphP) are knotted proteins that have been developed as near-infrared fluorescent protein (iRFP) reporters of gene expression. To explore how rearrangements in the peptides that interlace into the knot within the BphP photosensory core affect folding, we subjected iRFPs to random circular permutation using an improved transposase mutagenesis strategy and screened for variants that fluoresce. We identified 27 circularly permuted iRFPs that display biliverdin-dependent fluorescence in Escherichia coli. The variants with the brightest whole cell fluorescence initiated translation at residues near the domain linker and knot tails, although fluorescent variants that initiated translation within the PAS and GAF domains were discovered. Circularly permuted iRFPs retained sufficient cofactor affinity to fluoresce in tissue culture without the addition of biliverdin, and one variant displayed enhanced fluorescence when expressed in bacteria and tissue culture. This variant displayed a quantum yield similar to that of iRFPs but exhibited increased resistance to chemical denaturation, suggesting that the observed increase in the magnitude of the signal arose from more efficient protein maturation. These results show how the contact order of a knotted BphP can be altered without disrupting chromophore binding and fluorescence, an important step toward the creation of near-infrared biosensors with expanded chemical sensing functions for in vivo imaging.