We previously demonstrated that streptokinase (SK) can be used to generate active site-labeled fluorescent analogs of plasminogen (Pg) by virtue of its nonproteolytic activation of the zymogen. The method is versatile and allows stoichiometric and active site-specific incorporation of any one of many molecular probes. The limitation of the labeling approach is that it is both time-consuming and low yield. Here we demonstrate an improved method for the preparation of labeled Pg analogs by the use of an engineered SK mutant fusion protein with both COOH- and NH(2)-terminal His(6) tags. The NH(2)-terminal tag is followed by a tobacco etch virus proteinase cleavage site to ensure that the SK Ile(1) residue, essential for conformational activation of Pg, is preserved. The SK COOH-terminal Lys(414) residue and residues Arg253-Leu260 in the SK β-domain were deleted to prevent cleavage by plasmin (Pm) and to disable Pg substrate binding to the SK·Pg(∗)/Pm catalytic complexes, respectively. Near elimination of Pm generation with the SKΔ(R253-L260)ΔK414-His(6) mutant increased the yield of labeled Pg 2.6-fold and reduced the time required more than 2-fold. The versatility of the labeling method was extended to the application of Pg labeled with a near-infrared probe to quantitate Pg receptors on immune cells by flow cytometry.
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