Targeting protein function: the expanding toolkit for conditional disruption

Biochem J. 2016 Sep 1;473(17):2573-89. doi: 10.1042/BCJ20160240.


A major objective in biological research is to understand spatial and temporal requirements for any given gene, especially in dynamic processes acting over short periods, such as catalytically driven reactions, subcellular transport, cell division, cell rearrangement and cell migration. The interrogation of such processes requires the use of rapid and flexible methods of interfering with gene function. However, many of the most widely used interventional approaches, such as RNAi or CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas9 (CRISPR-associated 9), operate at the level of the gene or its transcripts, meaning that the effects of gene perturbation are exhibited over longer time frames than the process under investigation. There has been much activity over the last few years to address this fundamental problem. In the present review, we describe recent advances in disruption technologies acting at the level of the expressed protein, involving inducible methods of protein cleavage, (in)activation, protein sequestration or degradation. Drawing on examples from model organisms we illustrate the utility of fast-acting techniques and discuss how different components of the molecular toolkit can be employed to dissect previously intractable biochemical processes and cellular behaviours.

Keywords: biochemical techniques and resources; cellular targeting; chemical biology; optogenetics; protein dynamics.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats
  • Humans
  • Proteins / physiology*


  • Proteins