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Protein imaging, allowing a wide variety of biological studies both in vitro and in vivo, is of great importance in modern biology. Protein and peptide tags fused to proteins of interest provide the opportunity to elucidate protein location and functions, detect protein-protein interactions, and measure protein activity and kinetics in living cells. Whereas several tags are suitable for protein imaging in mesophilic organisms, the application of this approach to microorganisms living at high temperature has lagged behind. Archaea provide an excellent and unique model for understanding basic cell biology mechanisms. Here, we present the development of a toolkit for protein imaging in the hyperthermophilic archaeon Sulfolobus islandicus. The system relies on a thermostable protein tag (H5) constructed by engineering the alkylguanine-DNA-alkyl-transferase protein of Sulfolobus solfataricus, which can be covalently labeled using a wide range of small molecules. As a suitable host, we constructed, by CRISPR-based genome-editing technology, a S. islandicus mutant strain deleted for the alkylguanine-DNA-alkyl-transferase gene (Δogt). Introduction of a plasmid-borne H5 gene in this strain led to production of a functional H5 protein, which was successfully labeled with appropriate fluorescent molecules and visualized in cell extracts as well as in Δogt live cells. H5 was fused to reverse gyrase, a peculiar thermophile-specific DNA topoisomerase endowed with positive supercoiling activity, and allowed visualization of the enzyme in living cells. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of in vivo imaging of any protein of a thermophilic archaeon, filling an important gap in available tools for cell biology studies in these organisms.


Valeria Visone, Wenyuan Han, Giuseppe Perugino, Giovanni Del Monaco, Qunxin She, Mosè Rossi, Anna Valenti, Maria Ciaramella. In vivo and in vitro protein imaging in thermophilic archaea by exploiting a novel protein tag. PloS one. 2017;12(10):e0185791

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PMID: 28973046

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