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Epitope-specific enzymes are powerful tools for site-specific protein modification but generally require genetic manipulation of the target protein. Here, we describe the laboratory evolution of the bacterial transpeptidase sortase A to recognize the LMVGG sequence in endogenous amyloid-β (Aβ) protein. Using a yeast display selection for covalent bond formation, we evolved a sortase variant that prefers LMVGG substrates from a starting enzyme that prefers LPESG substrates, resulting in a >1,400-fold change in substrate preference. We used this evolved sortase to label endogenous in human cerebrospinal fluid, enabling the detection of with sensitivities rivaling those of commercial assays. The evolved sortase can conjugate a hydrophilic peptide to Aβ42, greatly impeding the ability of the resulting protein to aggregate into higher-order structures. These results demonstrate laboratory evolution of epitope-specific enzymes toward endogenous targets as a strategy for site-specific protein modification without target gene manipulation and enable potential future applications of sortase-mediated labeling of peptides.


Christopher J Podracky, Chihui An, Alexandra DeSousa, Brent M Dorr, Dominic M Walsh, David R Liu. Laboratory evolution of a sortase enzyme that modifies amyloid-β protein. Nature chemical biology. 2021 Mar;17(3):317-325

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PMID: 33432237

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