Evaluation of GFP Tag as a Screening Reporter in Directed Evolution of a Hyperthermophilic β-Glucosidase

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By applying a directed evolution methodology specific enzymatic characteristics can be enhanced, but to select mutants of interest from a large mutant bank, this approach requires high throughput screening and facile selection. To facilitate such primary screening of enhanced clones, an expression system was tested that uses a green fluorescent protein (GFP) tag from Aequorea victoria linked to the enzyme of interest. As GFP's fluorescence is readily measured, and as there is a 1:1 molar correlation between the target protein and GFP, the concept proposed was to determine whether GFP could facilitate primary screening of error-prone PCR (EPP) clones. For this purpose a thermostable β-glucosidase (BglA) from Fervidobacterium sp. was used as a model enzyme. A vector expressing the chimeric protein BglA-GFP-6XHis was constructed and the fusion protein purified and characterized. When compared to the native proteins, the components of the fusion displayed modified characteristics, such as enhanced GFP thermostability and a higher BglA optimum temperature. Clones carrying mutant BglA proteins obtained by EPP, were screened based on the BglA/GFP activity ratio. Purified tagged enzymes from selected clones resulted in modified substrate specificity.

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