Engineering ligand-receptor pairs for small molecule control of transcription
Schwimmer, Lauren J.
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Creating receptors for control of transcription with arbitrary small molecules has widespread applications including gene therapy, biosensors, and enzyme engineering. Using the combination of high throughput docking, codon randomization, and chemical complementation, we have created new receptors to control transcription with small molecules. Chemical complementation, a new method of protein engineering, was used to discover retinoid X receptors (RXR) variants that are activated by compounds that do not activate wild-type RXR. A first library of 32,768 RXR variants was designed for the synthetic retinoid-like compound LG335. The library produced ligand-receptor pairs with LG335 that have a variety of EC50s and efficacies. One engineered variant has essentially the reverse ligand specificity of wild-type RXR and is transcriptionally active at 10 and #64979;fold lower LG335 concentration than wild-type RXR with 9cRA in yeast. The activity of this variant in mammalian cells correlates with its activity in yeast. A second library of 262,144 RXR variants was designed for two purposes: (i) to develop a high-throughput chemical complementation method to select variants that have high efficacies and low EC50s; and (ii) to find variants which are activated by small molecules not known to bind RXR variants. Selection conditions were manipulated to find only variants with high efficacies and low EC50s. This library was also selected for variants that activate transcription specifically in response to gamma-oxo-1-pyrenebutyric acid (OPBA), which is different from any known RXR ligand. OPBA was chosen as a potential ligand using high-throughput docking with the software program FlexX. Two variants are activated by OPBA with an EC50 of 5 mM. This is only ten-fold greater than the EC50 of wild type RXR with its ligand 9cRA (500 nM) in yeast. An improved method synthesizing LG335 and a method for quantifying intracellular ligand concentrations were developed. Although the LG335 synthetic method has an additional step, the overall yield was improved to 8% from 4% in the original publication. Liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry was used to quantify the intracellular concentration of LG335, which was found to be within four fold of the LG335 concentration in the media.