Development of a New DHFR-Based Destabilizing Domain with Enhanced Basal Turnover and Applicability in Mammalian Systems

Emi Nakahara, Vishruth Mullapudi, Gracen E. Collier, Lukasz A. Joachimiak, John D. Hulleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Destabilizing domains (DDs) are an attractive strategy allowing for positive post-transcriptional small molecule-regulatable control of a fusion protein's abundance. However, in many instances, the currently available DDs suffer from higher-than-desirable basal levels of the fusion protein. Accordingly, we redesigned the E. coli dihydrofolate reductase (ecDHFR) DD by introducing a library of a¼1200 random ecDHFR mutants fused to YFP into CHO cells. Following successive rounds of fluorescence-activated cell sorting, we identified six new ecDHFR DD clones with significantly enhanced proteasomal turnover in the absence of a stabilizing ligand, trimethoprim (TMP). One of these clones, designated as "C12", contained four unique missense mutations (W74R/T113S/E120D/Q146L) and demonstrated a significant 2.9-fold reduction in basal levels compared to the conventional ecDHFR DD (i.e., R12Y/G67S/Y100I). This domain was similarly responsive to TMP with respect to dose response and maximal stabilization, indicating an overall enhanced dynamic range. Interestingly, both computational and wet-lab experiments identified the W74R and T113S mutations of C12 as the main contributors toward its basal destabilization. However, the combination of all the C12 mutations was required to maintain both its enhanced degradation and TMP stabilization. We further demonstrate the utility of C12 by fusing it to IκBα and Nrf2, two stress-responsive proteins that have previously been challenging to regulate. In both instances, C12 significantly enhanced the basal turnover of these proteins and improved the dynamic range of regulation post stabilizer addition. These advantageous features of the C12 ecDHFR DD variant highlight its potential for replacing the conventional N-terminal ecDHFR DD and improving the use of DDs overall, not only as a chemical biology tool but for gene therapy avenues as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2877-2889
Number of pages13
JournalACS chemical biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 21 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine


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