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September 27, 2012
EMBL Chemical Biology: Labeling Proteins
Jason Chin of the MRC Molecular Biology lab in the UK has been talking here about protein labeling and genetic code expansion, an overview of the numerous papers his group has been publishing in this area over the last few years.
And he's just made what I think is a very worthwhile point. While talking about labeling proteins with very reactive alkyne-containing amino acids (for fluorescent "click" applications), he said that some people would look at this and say "Why bother - you can already label these things with GFP". But sticking an entire Green Fluorescent Protein onto an existing one is hardly a silent event. If you're going to think about these things the way a chemist would, you need to come in with something as small and unobtrusive as possible. And it also needs to be something that you can localize, which doesn't just mean "I know what protein it's on".
Chemists think - or had better think - at a higher magnification. What exact surface of the protein is this label on? What residues are next to it? What sort of binding pockets might it be interrogating? We need to treat proteins as molecules, and as molecules they have a lot of detail in them.
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