Navigation Links
Synthetic biology: TUM researchers develop novel kind of fluorescent protein

This release is available in German.

Proteins are the most important functional biomolecules in nature with numerous applications in life science research, biotechnology and medicine. So how can they be modified in the most effective way to attain certain desired properties? In the past, the modifications were usually carried out either chemically or via genetic engineering. The team of Professor Arne Skerra from the TUM Chair of Biological Chemistry has now developed a more elegant combined solution: By extending the otherwise universal genetic code, the scientists are able to coerce bacterial cells to produce tailored proteins with synthetic functional groups. To put their idea to the test, they set out to crack a particularly hard nut: The scientists wanted to incorporate a non-natural amino acid at a specific site into a widely used natural protein.

In bioresearch this protein is commonly known as "GFP" (= green fluorescent protein). It emits a bright green glow and stems originally from a jellyfish that uses the protein to make itself visible in the darkness of the deep sea. The team chose a pale lavender coumarin pigment, serving as side chain of a non-natural amino acid, as the synthetic group. The scientists "fed" this artificial amino acid to a laboratory culture of Escherichia coli bacteria the microorganism workhorses of genetic engineering, whose natural siblings are also found in the human intestine. Since the team had transferred the modified genetic blueprints for the GFP to the bacteria including the necessary biosynthesis machinery it incorporated the coumarin amino acid at a very specific site into the fluorescent protein.

This spot in the GFP was carefully chosen, explains Professor Skerra: "We positioned the synthetic amino acid at a very close distance from the fluorescence center of the natural protein." The scientists employed the principle of the so-called Foerster resonance energy transfer, or FRET for short. Under favorable conditions, this process of physical energy transfer, named after the German physical chemist Theodor Foerster, allows energy to be conveyed from one stimulated pigment to another in a radiation-less manner.

It was precisely this FRET effect that the scientists implemented very elegantly in the new fluorescent protein. They defined the distance between the imported chemical pigment and the biological blue-green (cyan, to be more precise) pigment of the jellyfish protein in such a way that the interplay between the two dyes resulted in a completely novel kind of fluorescent chimeric biomolecule. Because of the extreme proximity of the two luminescent groups the pale lavender of the synthetic amino acid can no longer be detected; instead, the typical blue-green color of the fluorescent protein dominates. "What is special here, and different from the natural GFP, is that, thanks to the synthetically incorporated amino acid, the fluorescence can be excited with a commercially available black-light lamp in place of an expensive dedicated LASER apparatus," explains Sebastian Kuhn, who conducted these groundbreaking experiments as part of his doctoral thesis.

According to Skerra, the design principle of the novel bio-molecule, which is characterized by a particularly large and hard to achieve wavelength difference between excitation and emitted light, should open numerous interesting applications: "We have now demonstrated that the technology works. Our strategy will enable the preparation of customized fluorescent proteins in various colors for manifold future purposes." This research project was financially supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as part of the Excellence Cluster "Munich Center for Integrated Protein Science" (CIPS-M).


Contact: Jana Bodicky
Technische Universitaet Muenchen

Related biology news :

1. Caltech engineers build firast-ever multi-input plug-and-play synthetic RNA device
2. Synthetic Biology: Coming Up Fast!
3. Biosynthetics production with detours
4. UNC scientists teach enzyme to make synthetic heparin in more varieties
5. Synthetic virus supports a bat origin for SARS
6. Synthetic biology: Is ethics a showstopper?
7. Synthetic biology key in the 21st century
8. Milestone achieved toward production of malaria treatment using synthetic biology and fermentation
9. Synthetic biology can help extend anti-malaria drug effectiveness
10. Orientation of antenna protein in photosynthetic bacteria described
11. Using combinatorial libraries to engineer genetic circuits advances synthetic biology
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/9/2015)... ) ... "Global Law Enforcement Biometrics Market 2015-2019" ... ) has announced the addition of ... 2015-2019" report to their offering. ... ) has announced the addition of the ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... November 4, 2015 --> ... report published by Transparency Market Research "Home Security Solutions Market ... Forecast 2015 - 2022", the global home security solutions market is ... by 2022. The market is estimated to expand at ... 2015 to 2022. Rising security needs among customers at ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Oct. 29, 2015   MedNet Solutions , an ... spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to announce that ... Association (MHTA) as one of only three finalists for ... – Small and Growing" category. The Tekne Awards honor ... shown superior technology innovation and leadership. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... In harsh ... Insertion points for in-line sensors can represent a weak spot where leaking process ... series of retractable sensor housings , which are designed to tolerate extreme process ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 HemoShear Therapeutics, ... discovering drugs for metabolic disorders, announced today the ... its Board of Directors (BOD). Mr. Watkins is ... Human Genome Sciences (HGS), and also served as ... Jim Powers , Chairman and CEO of ...
(Date:11/23/2015)... CHICAGO , Nov. 24, 2015 Women with ... screening CT exams face a higher risk of lung cancer ... being presented next week at the annual meeting of the ... --> --> Lung ... are classified as solid or subsolid based on their appearance ...
(Date:11/23/2015)... The royalty-free a greement ... develop daclatasvir for 112 low- and m ... --> --> The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) ... signing an agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb for daclatasvir, a novel ... of the HCV virus.  The royalty-free licence will enable generic ...
Breaking Biology Technology: