We propose to develop a new system for site specific labeling proteins in live cells based on the bacterial transpeptidase sortase A (SrtA). Using a combination of protein engineering and directed evolution, we will develop SrtA variants capable of efficiently functioning within mammalian cells. We will also develop exceptionally small (<2KDa), brightly fluorescent membrane permeable labels as well as substrates which will fluoresce only upon attachment to the target protein. The reduced size of these labels coupled with their strong fluorescence will permit monitoring of proteins at lower, more physiological expression levels while reducing any potential for steric interference. Initial work will focus on labeling secretory proteins, but the technology will be applicable to almost any protein located in a number of cellular compartments.
We will develop a novel enzymatic method for labeling specific proteins with small fluorescent molecules in live cells.