Identification of Sites Within a Monomeric Red Fluorescent Protein that Tolerate Peptide Insertion and Testing of Corresponding Circular Permutations


*email: (Robert E. Campbell)


In recent years the class of known fluorescent proteins (FPs) has dramatically expanded as an ever-increasing numbers of variants and homologs of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) from Aequorea jellyfish have been either engineered in the lab or discovered in other marine organisms. The red fluorescent protein (RFP) from Discosoma coral (also known as dsFP583 and DsRed) has proven to be a particularly fruitful progenitor of variants with biochemical and spectroscopic properties conducive to applications in live cell imaging. We have investigated the tolerance of an engineered monomeric descendent of Discosoma RFP, known as mCherry, towards peptide insertion and circular permutation. Starting from a random library of insertion variants, we identified six genetically distinct sites localized in three different loops where a sequence of five residues could be inserted without abolishing the ability of the protein to form its intrinsic red fluorescent chromophore. For each of these insertion variants, a corresponding circular permutation variant was created in which the original N- and C-termini were connected by a six-residue linker and new termini were introduced at the site of the insertion. All six circular permutation variants had significantly diminished brightness relative to the analogous insertion variants. The most promising circular permutation variant has termini at the position corresponding to residue 184 of mCherry and retains 37% of the intrinsic fluorescent brightness of mCherry. These circularly permuted variants may serve as the foundation for construction of genetically encoded Ca2+ sensors analogous to the previously reported camgaroo, pericam and G-CaMP sensors based on variants of Aequorea GFP.