Tethering-based chemogenetic approaches for the modulation of protein function in live cells†
Proteins are the workhorse molecules performing various tasks to sustain life. To investigate the roles of a protein under physiological conditions, the rapid modulation of the protein with high specificity in a living system would be ideal, but achieving this is often challenging. To address this challenge, researchers have developed chemogenetic strategies for the rapid and selective modulation of protein function in live cells. Here, the target protein is modified genetically to become sensitive to a designer molecule that otherwise has no effect on other cellular biomolecules. One powerful chemogenetic strategy is to introduce a tethering point into the target protein, allowing covalent or non-covalent attachment of the designer molecule. In this tutorial review, we focus on tethering-based chemogenetic approaches for modulating protein function in live cells. We first describe genetic, optogenetic and chemical means to study protein function. These means lay the basis for the chemogenetic concept, which is explained in detail. The next section gives an overview, including advantages and limitations, of tethering tactics that have been employed for modulating cellular protein function. The third section provides examples of the modulation of cell-surface proteins using tethering-based chemogenetics through non-covalent tethering and covalent tethering for irreversible modulation or functional switching. The fourth section presents intracellular examples. The last section summarizes key considerations in implementing tethering-based chemogenetics and shows perspectives highlighting future directions and other applications of this burgeoning research field.