- Center for DNA Nanotechnology at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center and Department of Chemistry, Aarhus University , Gustav Wieds Vej 14, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.
Conjugation of DNA to proteins is increasingly used in academia and industry to provide proteins with tags for identification or handles for hybridization to other DNA strands. Assay technologies such as immuno-PCR and proximity ligation and the imaging technology DNA-PAINT require DNA-protein conjugates. In DNA nanotechnology, the DNA handle is exploited to precisely position proteins by self-assembly. For these applications, site-selective conjugation is almost always desired because fully functional proteins are required to maintain the specificity of antibodies and the activity of enzymes. The introduction of a bioorthogonal handle at a specific position of a protein by recombinant techniques provides an excellent approach to site-specific conjugation, but for many laboratories and for applications where several proteins are to be labeled, the expression of recombinant proteins may be cumbersome. In recent years, a number of chemical methods that target conjugation to specific sites at native proteins have become available, and an overview of these methods is provided in this Account. Our laboratory has investigated DNA-templated protein conjugation (DTPC), which offers an alternative approach to site-selective conjugation of DNA to proteins. The method is inspired by the concept of DNA-templated synthesis where functional groups conjugated to DNA strands are preorganized by DNA hybridization to dramatically increase the reaction rate. In DPTC, we target metal binding sites in proteins to template selective covalent conjugation reactions. By chelation of a DNA-metal complex with a metal binding site of the protein, an electrophile on a second DNA strand is aligned for reaction with a lysine side chain on the protein in the proximity of the metal binding site. The method is quite general because approximately one-third of all wild-type proteins contain metal-binding sites, including many IgG antibodies, and it is also applicable to His-tagged proteins. This emerging field provides direct access to site-selective conjugates of DNA to commercially available proteins. In this Account, we introduce these methods to the reader and describe current developments and future aspects.