The past 20 years have witnessed the advent of numerous technologies to specifically and covalently label proteins in cellulo and in vivo with synthetic probes. These technologies range from self-labeling proteins tags to non-natural amino acids, and the question is no longer how we can specifically label a given protein but rather with what additional functionality we wish to equip it. In addition, progress in fields such as super-resolution microscopy and genome editing have either provided additional motivation to label proteins with advanced synthetic probes or removed some of the difficulties of conducting such experiments. By focusing on two particular applications, live-cell imaging and the generation of reversible protein switches, we outline the opportunities and challenges of the field and how the synergy between synthetic chemistry and protein engineering will make it possible to conduct experiments that are not feasible with conventional approaches.
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The Johnsson laboratory acknowledges support from the Swiss National Science Foundation and the NCCR Chemical Biology. The authors are grateful to P. Heppenstall (EMBL Monterotondo) and G. Lukinavicius (EPFL) for providing images. I.A.K. acknowledges funding through an EMBO Long-Term Fellowship (ALTF 302-2015) co-funded by Marie Curie Action (LTFCOFUND2013, GA-2013-609409).
K.J. has filed and licensed out patent applications on different protein labeling technologies and fluorophores that are mentioned in this article.
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Xue, L., Karpenko, I., Hiblot, J. et al. Imaging and manipulating proteins in live cells through covalent labeling. Nat Chem Biol 11, 917–923 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.1959
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