Fluorescence labeling, purification, and immobilization of a double cysteine mutant calmodulin fusion protein for single-molecule experiments
We present a method of labeling and immobilizing a low-molecular-weight protein, calmodulin (CaM), by fusion to a larger protein, maltose binding protein (MBP), for single-molecule fluorescence experiments. Immobilization in an agarose gel matrix eliminates potential interactions of the protein and the fluorophore(s) with a glass surface and allows prolonged monitoring of protein dynamics. The small size of CaM hinders its immobilization in low-weight-percentage agarose gels; however, fusion of CaM to MBP via a flexible linker provides sufficient restriction of translational mobility in 1% agarose gels. Cysteine residues were engineered into MBP.CaM (MBP-T34C,T110C-CaM) and labeled with donor and acceptor fluorescent probes yielding a construct (MBP.CaM-DA) which can be used for single-molecule single-pair fluorescence resonance energy transfer (spFRET) experiments. Mass spectrometry was used to verify the mass of MBP.CaM-DA. Assays measuring the activity of CaM reveal minimal activity differences between wild-type CaM and MBP.CaM-DA. Single-molecule fluorescence images of the donor and acceptor dyes were fit to a two-dimensional Gaussian function to demonstrate colocalization of donor and acceptor dyes. FRET is demonstrated both in bulk fluorescence spectra and in fluorescence trajectories of single MBP.CaM-DA molecules. The extension of this method to other biomolecules is also proposed.