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Genetic Incorporation of Biosynthesized L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) and Its Application to Protein Conjugation

Published: August 24th, 2018



1Department of Chemistry, Sogang University

Here, we present a protocol for the genetic incorporation of L-dihydroxyphenylalanine biosynthesized from simple starting materials and its application to protein conjugation.

L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) is an amino acid found in the biosynthesis of catecholamines in animals and plants. Because of its particular biochemical properties, the amino acid has multiple uses in biochemical applications. This report describes a protocol for the genetic incorporation of biosynthesized DOPA and its application to protein conjugation. DOPA is biosynthesized by a tyrosine phenol-lyase (TPL) from catechol, pyruvate, and ammonia, and the amino acid is directly incorporated into proteins by the genetic incorporation method using an evolved aminoacyl-tRNA and aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase pair. This direct incorporation system efficiently incorporates DOPA with little incorporation of other natural amino acids and with better protein yield than the previous genetic incorporation system for DOPA. Protein conjugation with DOPA-containing proteins is efficient and site-specific and shows its usefulness for various applications. This protocol provides protein scientists with detailed procedures for the efficient biosynthesis of mutant proteins containing DOPA at desired sites and their conjugation for industrial and pharmaceutical applications.

DOPA is an amino acid involved in the biosynthesis of catecholamines in animals and plants. This amino acid is synthesized from Tyr by tyrosine hydroxylase and molecular oxygen (O2)1. Because DOPA is a precursor of dopamine and can permeate the blood-brain barrier, it has been used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease2. DOPA is also found in mussel adhesion proteins (MAPs), which are responsible for the adhesive properties of mussels in wet conditions3,4,5,6,

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1. Plasmid Construction

  1. Construct an expression plasmid (pBAD-dual-TPL-GFP-WT) that expresses the TPL gene from Citrobacter freundii under the control of a constitutive promoter and the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene with a His6-tag under the control of the araBAD promoter. For pBAD-dual-TPL-GFP-E90TAG, replace the codon for the site (E90) of DOPA with an amber codon (TAG), using a site-directed mutagenesis protocol. The details for the construction of this plasmid was described in o.......

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The expression system for the direct incorporation of DOPA biosynthesized from a TPL is shown in Figure 1. The genes for the evolved aa-tRNA and aaRS pair are placed in a plasmid, and the GFP gene (GFP-E90TAG) containing an amber codon at position 90 is located in another plasmid to evaluate the incorporation of DOPA by GFP fluorescence. The TPL gene is placed in the same expression plasmid containing the GFP gene and constitutively expressed to maximize the .......

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In this protocol, the biosynthesis and direct incorporation of DOPA are described. The bacterial cell used in this method can synthesize an additional amino acid and use it as an unnatural building block for protein synthesis. The genetic incorporation of unnatural amino acids has been a key technology for the development of unnatural organism with an expanded genetic code. However, this method has been technically incomplete and is being modified to improve incorporation efficiency and minimize perturbation to endogenou.......

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This research was supported by the Global Frontier Research Program (NRF-2015M3A6A8065833), and the Basic Science Research Program (2018R1A6A1A03024940) through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Korea government. 


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
1. Plasmid Construction
Plasmid pBAD-dual-TPL-GFP-E90TAG optionally contain the amber stop codon(TAG) at a desired position. Ko, W. et al. Efficient and Site-Specific Antibody Labeling by Strain-promoted Azide-Alkyne Cycloaddition. BKCS. 36 (9), 2352-2354, doi: 10.1002/bkcs.10423, (2015)
Plasmid pEvol-DHPRS2 1. Young, T. S., Ahmad, I., Yin, J. A., and Schultz, P. G. An enhanced system for unnatural amino acid mutagenesis in E. coli. J. Mol. Biol. 395 (2), 361-374, doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2009.10.030, (2010) 2. Kim, S., Sung, B. H., Kim, S. C., Lee, H. S. Genetic incorporation of l-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) biosynthesized by a tyrosine phenol-lyase. Chem. Commun. 54 (24), 3002-3005, doi: 10.1039/c8cc00281a (2018).
DH10β Invitrogen C6400-03 Expression Host
Plasmid Mini-prep kit Nucleogen 5112 200/pack
Agarose Intron biotechnology 32034 500 g
Ethidium bromide Alfa Aesar L07482 1 g
LB Broth BD Difco 244620 500 g
2. Culture preparation
2.1) Electroporation
Micro pulser  BIO-RAD 165-2100
Micro pulser cuvette BIO-RAD 165-2089 0.1 cm electrode gap, pkg. of 50
Ampicillin Sodium Wako 018-10372 25 g
Chloramphenicol Alfa Aesar B20841 25 g
Agar SAMCHUN 214230 500 g
SOC medium Sigma S1797 100 mL
3. Expression and Purification of GFP-E90DOPA by biosynthetic system
3.1 Expression of GFP-E90DOPA by biosynthetic system
L(+)-Arabinose, 99% Acros 104981000 100 g
Pyrocatechol, 99% SAMCHUN P1387 25 g
Ammonium sulfate, 99% SAMCHUN A0943 500 g
pyruvic acid, 98% Alfa Aesar A13875 100 g
Sodium phosphate dibasic, anhydrous, 99% SAMCHUN S0891 1 kg
Potassium phophate, monobasic, 99% SAMCHUN P1127 1 kg
Magnesium sulfate, anhydrous, 99% SAMCHUN M0146 1 kg
D(+)-Glucose, anhydrous, 99% SAMCHUN D0092 500 g
Glycerol, 99% SAMCHUN G0269 1 kg
Trace metal mix a5 with co Sigma 92949 25 mL
L-Proline, 99% SAMCHUN P1257 25 g
L-Phenylalanine, 98.5% SAMCHUN P1982 25 g
L-Tryptophane JUNSEI 49550-0310 25 g
L-Arginine, 98% SAMCHUN A1149 25 g
L-Glutamine, 98% JUNSEI 27340-0310 25 g
L-Asparagine monohydrate, 99% SAMCHUN A1198 25 g
L-Methionine JUNSEI 73190-0410 25 g
L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate, 99% SAMCHUN H0604 25 g
L-Threonine, 99% SAMCHUN T2938 25 g
L-Leucine JUNSEI 87070-0310 25 g
Glycine, 99% SAMCHUN G0286 25 g
L-Glutamic acid, 99% SAMCHUN G0233 25 g
L-Alanine, 99% SAMCHUN A1543 25 g
L-Isoleucine, 99% SAMCHUN I1049 25 g
L-Valine, 99% SAMCHUN V0088 25 g
L-Serine SAMCHUN S2447 25 g
L-Aspartic acid SAMCHUN A1205 25 g
L-Lysine monohydrochloride, 99% SAMCHUN L0592 25 g
3.2 Cell lysis
Imidazole, 99% SAMCHUN I0578 1kg
Sodium phosphate monobasic, 98% SAMCHUN S0919 1 kg
Sodium Chloride, 99% SAMCHUN S2907 1 kg
Ultrasonic Processor - 150 microliters to 150 milliliters SONIC & MATERIALS VCX130
3.3 Ni-NTA Affinity Chromatography
Ni-NTA resin QIAGEN 30210 25 mL
Polypropylene column QIAGEN 34924 50/pack, 1 mL capacity
4. Oligomerization of Purified GFP-E90DOPA 
Sodium periodate, 99.8& Acros 419610050 5 g
5. Conjugation of GFP-E90DOPA with an Alkyne Probe by Strain-Promoted Oxidation-Controlled Cyclooctyne–1,2-Quinone Cycloaddition (SPOCQ) 
Cy5.5-ADIBO  FutureChem FC-6119 1mg
6. Purification of Labeled GFP
Amicon Ultra 0.5 mL Centrifugal Filters MILLIPORE UFC500396 96/pack, 500ul capacity
7. SDS-PAGE Analysis and Fluorescence Gel Scanning
1,4-Dithio-DL-threitol, DTT, 99.5 % Sigma 10708984001 10 g
NuPAGE LDS Sample Buffer, 4X Thermofisher NP0007 10 mL
MES running buffer Thermofisher NP0002 500 mL
Nupage Novex 4-12% SDS PAGE gels Thermofisher NO0321 12 well
Coomassie Brilliant Blue R-250 Wako 031-17922 25 g
G:BOX Chemi Fluorescent & Chemiluminescent Imaging System Syngene G BOX Chemi XT4
8. MALDI-TOF MS analysis by Trypsin Digestion
8.1 Preparation of the digested peptide sample by trypsin digestion
Tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane, 99% SAMCHUN T1351 500 g
Hydrochloric acid, 35~37% SAMCHUN H0256 500 mL
Dodecyl sulfate sodium salt, 85% SAMCHUN D1070 250 g
Iodoacetamide Sigma I6125 5 g
Trypsin Protease, MS Grade Thermofisher 90057 5 x 20 µg/pack
C-18 spin columns Thermofisher 89870 25/pack, 200 µL capacity
8.2 Analysis of the digested peptide by MALDI-TOF
Acetonitirile, 99.5% SAMCHUN A0125 500 mL
α-Cyano-4-hydroxycinnamic acid Sigma C2020 10 g
Trifluoroacetic acid, 99% SAMCHUN T1666 100 g
MTP 384 target plate ground steel BC targets Bruker 8280784
Bruker Autoflex Speed MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer Bruker

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