C.A. Sarkar, I. Dodevski, M. Kenig, S. Dudli, A. Mohr, E. Hermans, and A. Plückthun. "Directed evolution of a G-protein coupled receptor for expression, stability, and binding selectivity." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 105:14808-14813 (2008).

    We outline a powerful method for the directed evolution of integral membrane proteins in the inner membrane of Escherichia coli. For a mammalian G protein-coupled receptor, we arrived at a sequence with an order-of-magnitude increase in functional expression that still retains the biochemical properties of wild type. This mutant also shows enhanced heterologous expression in eukaryotes (12-fold in Pichia pastoris and 3-fold in HEK293T cells) and greater stability when solubilized and purified, indicating that the biophysical properties of the protein had been under the pressure of selection. These improvements arise from multiple small contributions, which would be difficult to assemble by rational design. In a second screen, we rapidly pinpointed a single amino acid substitution in wild type that abolishes antagonist binding while retaining agonist-binding affinity. These approaches may alleviate existing bottlenecks in structural studies of these targets by providing sufficient quantities of stable variants in defined conformational states.

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