Modular protein switches derived from antibody mimetic proteins

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Protein switches have potential applications as biosensors and selective protein therapeutics. Protein switches built by fusion of proteins with the prerequisite input and output functions are currently developed using an ad hoc process. A modular switch platform in which existing switches could be readily adapted to respond to any ligand would be advantageous. We investigated the feasibility of a modular protein switch platform based on fusions of the enzyme TEM-1 β-lactamase (BLA) with two different antibody mimetic proteins: designed ankyrin repeat proteins (DARPins) and monobodies. We created libraries of random insertions of the gene encoding BLA into genes encoding a DARPin or a monobody designed to bind maltose-binding protein (MBP). From these libraries, we used a genetic selection system for β-lactamase activity to identify genes that conferred MBP-dependent ampicillin resistance to Escherichia coli. Some of these selected genes encoded switch proteins whose enzymatic activity increased up to 14-fold in the presence of MBP. We next introduced mutations into the antibody mimetic domain of these switches that were known to cause binding to different ligands. To different degrees, introduction of the mutations resulted in switches with the desired specificity, illustrating the potential modularity of these platforms.

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