Truncation-Free Genetic Code Expansion with Tetrazine Amino Acids for Quantitative Protein Ligations.

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Bioconjugate Chemistry

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Quantitative labeling of biomolecules is necessary to advance areas of antibody-drug conjugation, super-resolution microscopy imaging of molecules in live cells, and determination of the stoichiometry of protein complexes. Bio-orthogonal labeling to genetically encodable noncanonical amino acids (ncAAs) offers an elegant solution; however, their suboptimal reactivity and stability hinder the utility of this method. Previously, we showed that encoding stable 1,2,4,5-tetrazine (Tet)-containing ncAAs enables rapid, complete conjugation, yet some expression conditions greatly limited the quantitative reactivity of the Tet-protein. Here, we demonstrate that reduction of on-protein Tet ncAAs impacts their reactivity, while the leading cause of the unreactive protein is near-cognate suppression (NCS) of UAG codons by endogenous aminoacylated tRNAs. To overcome incomplete conjugation due to NCS, we developed a more catalytically efficient tRNA synthetase and developed a series of new machinery plasmids harboring the aminoacyl tRNA synthetase/tRNA pair (aaRS/tRNA pair). These plasmids enable robust production of homogeneously reactive Tet-protein in truncation-free cell lines, eliminating the contamination caused by NCS and protein truncation. Furthermore, these plasmid systems utilize orthogonal synthetic origins, which render these machinery vectors compatible with any common expression system. Through developing these new machinery plasmids, we established that the aaRS/tRNA pair plasmid copy-number greatly affects the yields and quality of the protein produced. We then produced quantitatively reactive soluble Tet-Fabs, demonstrating the utility of this system for rapid, homogeneous conjugations of biomedically relevant proteins.


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