A Redox-Based Autoinduction Strategy to Facilitate Expression of 5xCys-Tagged Proteins for Electrobiofabrication

Front Microbiol. 2021 Jun 18;12:675729. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.675729. eCollection 2021.


Biofabrication utilizes biological materials and biological means, or mimics thereof, for assembly. When interfaced with microelectronics, electrobiofabricated assemblies enable exquisite sensing and reporting capabilities. We recently demonstrated that thiolated polyethylene glycol (PEG-SH) could be oxidatively assembled into a thin disulfide crosslinked hydrogel at an electrode surface; with sufficient oxidation, extra sulfenic acid groups are made available for covalent, disulfide coupling to sulfhydryl groups of proteins or peptides. We intentionally introduced a polycysteine tag (5xCys-tag) consisting of five consecutive cysteine residues at the C-terminus of a Streptococcal protein G to enable its covalent coupling to an electroassembled PEG-SH film. We found, however, that its expression and purification from E. coli was difficult, owing to the extra cysteine residues. We developed a redox-based autoinduction methodology that greatly enhanced the yield, especially in the soluble fraction of E. coli extracts. The redox component involved the deletion of oxyRS, a global regulator of the oxidative stress response and the autoinduction component integrated a quorum sensing (QS) switch that keys the secreted QS autoinducer-2 to induction. Interestingly, both methods helped when independently employed and further, when used in combination (i.e., autodinduced oxyRS mutant) the results were best-we found the highest total yield and highest yield in the soluble fraction. We hypothesize that the production host was less prone to severe metabolic perturbations that might reduce yield or drive sequestration of the -tagged protein into inclusion bodies. We expect this methodology will be useful for the expression of many such Cys-tagged proteins, ultimately enabling a diverse array of functionalized devices.

Keywords: autoinduction; biofabrication; cysteine tag; inclusion body; protein expression; redox.