• Rational Design of Protein-Based Biosensors Using Engineered Binding-Induced Conformational Switches

      Loh, Stewart; ZHENG, HUIMEI (2014)
      Biosensor development continues to be driven by the growing need to accurately detect and monitor analytes with many biotechnology, clinical, agriculture, and military applications. With their well-established capacity for molecular recognition, proteins are the go-to choice of binding elements in many conventional sensor designs. Switchable proteins offer the potential of integrating analyte binding and signal transduction within a single molecule, thus reducing the need for complex and expensive detection equipment and opening the door to miniaturization and in vivo applications. The principal challenge is that the majority of natural binding proteins do not undergo a large-scale change in conformation upon target binding. This work describes two complementary protein design strategies for the rational conversion of ordinary binding proteins into ligand induced conformational switches for biosensing purposes. In the first approach, we applied the Alternate Frame Folding (AFF) mechanism to the human sulfiredoxin (hSrx) and the fibronectin (FN3) monobody scaffold towards the creation of an ATP biosensor and a customizable biosensor platform, respectively. In a second novel approach, the Protein Fragment Exchange (FREX) mechanism was demonstrated in a proof-of principle study that converts the FN3 scaffold into a biosensor, capable of genetic encoding and application in mammalian cells. While these designs were based on well established principles of protein folding and thermodynamics, the results obtained from these studies also offer important insights regarding protein sequence-structure-function relationships.