There are several approaches to understanding the physiological roles of biomolecules: (1) by observing the localization or activities of biomolecules (based on microscopic imaging experiments with fluorescent proteins or fluorescent probes) and (2) by investigating the cellular response via activation or suppression of functions of the target molecule (by using inhibitors, antagonists, siRNAs, etc.). In this context, protein-labeling technology serves as a powerful tool that can be used in various experiments, such as for fluorescence imaging of target proteins. Recently, we developed a protein-labeling technology that uses a mutant β-lactamase (a bacterial hydrolase) as the tag protein. In this protein-labeling technology, also referred to as the BL-tag technology, various β-lactam compounds were used as specific ligands that were covalently labeled to the tag. One major advantage of this labeling technology is that various functions can be carried out by suitably designing both the functional moieties such as the fluorophore and the β-lactam ligand structure. In this review, we briefly introduce the BL-tag technology and describe our future outlook for this technology, such as in fluorescence imaging of biomolecules and functional regulation of cellular proteins in living cells.
2016 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan