Investigation into the use of C- and N-terminal GFP fusion proteins for subcellular localization studies using reverse transfection microarrays

Comp Funct Genomics. 2004;5(4):342-53. doi: 10.1002/cfg.405.


Reverse transfection microarrays were described recently as a high throughput method for studying gene function. We have investigated the use of this technology for determining the subcellular localization of proteins. Genes encoding 16 proteins with a variety of functions were placed in Gateway expression constructs with 3' or 5' green fluorescent protein (GFP) tags. These were then packaged in transfection reagent and spotted robotically onto a glass slide to form a reverse transfection array. HEK293T cells were grown over the surface of the array until confluent and GFP fluorescence visualized by confocal microscopy. All C-terminal fusion proteins localized to cellular compartments in accordance with previous studies and/or bioinformatic predictions. However, less than half of the N-terminal fusion proteins localized correctly. Of those that were not in concordance with the C-terminal tagged proteins, half did not exhibit expression and the remainder had differing subcellular localizations to the C-terminal fusion protein. This data indicates that N-terminal tagging with GFP adversely affects the protein localization in reverse transfection assays, whereas tagging with GFP at the C-terminal is generally better in preserving the localization of the native protein. We discuss these results in the context of developing high-throughput subcellular localization assays based on the reverse transfection array technology.