Chemoenzymatic labeling of proteins for imaging in bacterial cells

Reliable methods to determine the subcellular localization of bacterial proteins are needed for the study of prokaryotic cell biology. We describe here a simple and general technique for imaging of bacterial proteins in situ by fluorescence microscopy. The method uses the eukaryotic enzyme N-myristoyltransferase to modify the N-terminus of the protein of interest with an azido fatty acid. Subsequent strain-promoted azide–alkyne cycloaddition allows conjugation of dyes and imaging of tagged proteins by confocal fluorescence microscopy. We demonstrate the method by labeling the chemotaxis proteins Tar and CheA and the cell division proteins FtsZ and FtsA in Escherichia coli. We observe distinct spatial patterns for each of these proteins in both fixed and live cells. The method should prove broadly useful for protein imaging in bacteria.

Ho, S.H. and Tirrell, D.A.
Journal of the American Chemical Society
Volume: 138
Number: 46
Pages: 15098–15101
Date: November, 2016
ICB Affiliated Authors: David A Tirrell