February 6, 2012
North Carolina State University researchers have created specially engineered mammalian cells to provide a new “chemical handle” which will enable researchers to label proteins of interest more efficiently, without disrupting the normal function of the proteins themselves or the cells in which they are found.
Protein labeling is used by researchers in a variety of fields to help them understand how these important molecules affect the normal functioning of cells. Currently, proteins are labeled for study simply by fusing them to other fluorescent proteins, which allows researchers to use microscopy to track their movements through a cell. This approach has several drawbacks, however, not least being that the fluorescent proteins are often large enough to affect the function of the protein of interest.
Dr. Alex Deiters, associate professor of chemistry, along with colleague Dr. Jason Chin of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge, U.K., have developed a way to attach a fluorophore – a fluorescent molecule about 20 times smaller than the fluorescent proteins currently in use – to a protein that is expressed in a mammalian cell.