Modulating protein activity using tethered ligands with mutually exclusive binding sites
The possibility to design proteins whose activities can be switched on and off by unrelated effector molecules would enable applications in various research areas, ranging from biosensing to synthetic biology. We describe here a general method to modulate the activity of a protein in response to the concentration of a specific effector. The approach is based on synthetic ligands that possess two mutually exclusive binding sites, one for the protein of interest and one for the effector. Tethering such a ligand to the protein of interest results in an intramolecular ligand–protein interaction that can be disrupted through the presence of the effector. Specifically, we introduce a luciferase controlled by another protein, a human carbonic anhydrase whose activity can be controlled by proteins or small molecules in vitro and on living cells, and novel fluorescent and bioluminescent biosensors.