Selective incorporation of non-natural amino acid residues into proteins is a powerful approach to delineate structure-function relationships. Although many methodologies are available for chemistry-based protein engineering, more facile methods are needed to make this approach suitable for routine laboratory practice. Here, we describe a new strategy and provide a proof of concept for engineering semi-synthetic proteins. We chose a serine protease Streptomyces griseus trypsin (SGT) for this study to show that it is possible to efficiently couple a synthetic peptide containing a catalytically critical residue to a recombinant fragment containing the other active site residues. The 223-residue hybrid SGT molecule was prepared by fusing a chemically synthesized N-terminal peptide to a large C-terminal fragment of recombinant origin using native chemical ligation. This C-terminal polypeptide was produced from full-length SGT by cyanogen bromide cleavage at a genetically engineered Met57 position. This semi-synthetic hybrid trypsin is fully active, showing kinetics identical to the wild-type enzyme. Thus, we believe that it is an ideal model enzyme for studying the catalytic mechanisms of serine proteases by providing a straightforward approach to incorporate non-natural amino acids in the N-terminal region of the protein. In particular, this strategy will allow for replacement of the catalytic His57 residue and the buried N-terminus, which is thought to help align the active site, with synthetic analogs. Our approach relies on readily available recombinant proteins and small synthetic peptides, thus having general applications in chemical engineering of large proteins where the N-terminal region is the focal interest.
ASJC Scopus subject areas