A genetically encoded multifunctional unnatural amino acid for versatile protein manipulations in living cells
The genetic code expansion strategy allowed incorporation of unnatural amino acids (UAAs) bearing diverse functional groups into proteins, providing a powerful toolkit for protein manipulation in living cells. We report a multifunctional UAA, Nε-p-azidobenzyloxycarbonyl lysine (PABK), that possesses a panel of unique properties capable of fulfilling various protein manipulation purposes. In addition to being used as a bioorthogonal ligation handle, an infrared probe and a photo-affinity reagent, PABK was shown to be chemically decaged by trans-cyclooctenols via a strain-promoted 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition, which provides a new bioorthogonal cleavage strategy for intracellular protein activation. The biocompatibility and efficiency of this method were demonstrated by decaging of a PABK-caged firefly luciferase under living conditions. We further extended this method to chemically rescue a bacterial toxin OspF inside mammalian host cells.