An efficient on-column expressed protein ligation strategy: application to segmental triple labeling of human apolipoprotein E3

Protein Sci. 2008 Apr;17(4):736-47. doi: 10.1110/ps.073383708. Epub 2008 Feb 27.


Expressed protein ligation (EPL) is an intein-based approach that has been used for protein engineering and biophysical studies of protein structures. One major problem of the EPL is the low yield of final ligation product, primarily due to the complex procedure of the EPL, preventing EPL from gaining popularity in the research community. Here we report an efficient on-column EPL strategy, which focuses on enhancing the expression level of the intein-fusion protein that generates thioester for the EPL. We applied this EPL strategy to human apolipoprotein E (apoE) and routinely obtained 25-30 mg segmental, triple-labeled apoE from 1-L cell culture. The approaches reported here are general approaches that are not specific for apoE, thus providing a general strategy for a highly efficient EPL. In addition, we also report an isotopic labeling scheme that double-labels one domain and keeps the other domain of apoE deuterated. Such an isotopic labeling scheme can only be achieved using the EPL strategy. Our data indicated that the segmental triple-labeled apoEs using this labeling scheme produced high-quality, simplified NMR spectra, facilitating NMR spectral assignment. For large proteins, such as apoE, perdeuterated protein samples have to be used to reduce the linewidth of NMR signals, causing a major problem for the NOE-based NMR method, since perdeuterated proteins lack protons for NOE measurement. The new labeling strategy solves this problem and provides (13)C/(15)N double-labeled, protonated protein domains, allowing for determination of high-resolution NMR structure of these large proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apolipoprotein E3 / chemistry*
  • Apolipoprotein E3 / genetics
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Deuterium
  • Factor Xa / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isotope Labeling / methods*
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Molecular Weight
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular
  • Protein Engineering / methods*
  • Protein Splicing*


  • Apolipoprotein E3
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Deuterium
  • Factor Xa