Design and applications of a clamp for Green Fluorescent Protein with picomolar affinity

Sci Rep. 2017 Nov 24;7(1):16292. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-15711-z.


Green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusions are pervasively used to study structures and processes. Specific GFP-binders are thus of great utility for detection, immobilization or manipulation of GFP-fused molecules. We determined structures of two designed ankyrin repeat proteins (DARPins), complexed with GFP, which revealed different but overlapping epitopes. Here we show a structure-guided design strategy that, by truncation and computational reengineering, led to a stable construct where both can bind simultaneously: by linkage of the two binders, fusion constructs were obtained that "wrap around" GFP, have very high affinities of about 10-30 pM, and extremely slow off-rates. They can be natively produced in E. coli in very large amounts, and show excellent biophysical properties. Their very high stability and affinity, facile site-directed functionalization at introduced unique lysines or cysteines facilitate many applications. As examples, we present them as tight yet reversible immobilization reagents for surface plasmon resonance, as fluorescently labelled monomeric detection reagents in flow cytometry, as pull-down ligands to selectively enrich GFP fusion proteins from cell extracts, and as affinity column ligands for inexpensive large-scale protein purification. We have thus described a general design strategy to create a "clamp" from two different high-affinity repeat proteins, even if their epitopes overlap.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ankyrin Repeat / genetics
  • Ankyrin Repeat / physiology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / chemistry*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary


  • Green Fluorescent Proteins