Selective incorporation of 5-hydroxytryptophan into proteins in mammalian cells

Zhiwen Zhang, Lital Alfonta, Feng Tian, Badry Bursulaya, Sean Uryu, David S. King, Peter G. Schultz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


An orthogonal tryptophanyl-transfer RNA (tRNA) synthetase (TrpRS)-mutant opal suppressor tRNATrp (mutRNAUCATrp) pair was generated for use in mammalian cells. The anticodon loop of the Bacillus subtilis tRNATrp was mutated to UCA, three positions in the D arm were mutated to generate an internal promoter sequence, and the mutRNA UCATrp gene was inserted between the 5′ and 3′ flanking sequences of the tRNATrp-1 gene from Arabidopsis to enhance its expression in mammalian cells. In vitro aminoacylation assays and in vivo opal suppression assays showed that B. subtilis TrpRS (BsTrpRS) charges only the cognate mutRNAUCATrp and no endogenous mammalian tRNAs. Similarly, the mutRNAUCATrp is specifically charged by B. subtilis TrpRS and not by endogenous synthetases in mammalian cells. Site-directed mutagenesis was then used to alter the specificity of BsTrpRS to uniquely charge 5-hydoxy-L-tryptophan. The resulting mutant BsTrpRS-mutRNA UCATrp pair allows the efficient and selective incorporation of 5-hydroxy-L-tryptophan into mammalian proteins in response to the codon, TGA. This amino acid can be used as a fluorescence probe and also undergoes electrochemical oxidation in situ to generate an efficient protein crosslinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8882-8887
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number24
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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