GFP Facilitates Native Purification of Recombinant Perlucin Derivatives and Delays the Precipitation of Calcium Carbonate
Insolubility is one of the possible functions of proteins involved in biomineralization, which often limits their native purification. This becomes a major problem especially when recombinant expression systems are required to obtain larger amounts. For example, the mollusc shell provides a rich source of unconventional proteins, which can interfere in manifold ways with different mineral phases and interfaces. Therefore, the relevance of such proteins for biotechnological processes is still in its infancy. Here we report a simple and reproducible purification procedure for a GFP-tagged lectin involved in biomineralization, originally isolated from mother-of-pearl in abalone shells. An optimization of E. coli host cell culture conditions was the key to obtain reasonable yields and high degrees of purity by using simple one-step affinity chromatography. We identified a dual functional role for the GFP domain when it became part of a mineralizing system in vitro. First, the GFP domain improved the solubility of an otherwise insoluble protein, in this case recombinant perlucin derivatives. Second, GFP inhibited calcium carbonate precipitation in a concentration dependent manner. This was demonstrated here using a simple bulk assay over a time period of 400 seconds. At concentrations of 2 µg/ml and higher, the inhibitory effect was observed predominantly for HCO3− as the first ionic interaction partner, but not necessarily for Ca2+. The interference of GFP-tagged perlucin derivatives with the precipitation of calcium carbonate generated different types of GFP-fluorescent composite calcite crystals. GFP-tagging offers therefore a genetically tunable tool to gently modify mechanical and optical properties of synthetic biocomposite minerals.