Despite significant advances on fluorescent labeling of target proteins to study their structural dynamics and function, there has been need for labeling with high quantum yield ensuring high sensitivity and selectivity without sacrificing the biological function of the protein. Here as a technical advancement over non-canonical amino acid incorporation, we provided a conceptual design of the N-terminal fluorescent tagging of proteins. Cy5-labeled methionine (Cy5-Met) was chemically synthesized, and then the purified Cy5-Met was coupled with synthetic human initiator tRNA by methionine tRNA synthetase. Cy5-Met-initiator tRNA (Cy5-Met-tRNAi) was purified and transfected into HeLa cells with HIV-Tat plasmid, resulting in an efficient production of Cy5-labeled HIV-Tat protein. Based on the universal requirement in translational initiation, the approach provides co-translational incorporation of N-terminal probe to a repertoire of proteins in the eukaryote system. This methodology has potential utility in the single molecule analysis of human proteins in vitro and in vivo for addressing to their complex biological structural and functional dynamics.
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