Capasso P, Aliprandi M, Ossolengo G, Edenhofer F, de Marco A
BACKGROUND: Cre recombinase is a common reagent used for the in vivo on/off switching of the expression of target genes flanked by loxP sites. In particular, recombinant TAT-Cre fusion constructs purified from bacteria have been used to promote the cell uptake of the enzyme. However, the recovery of active TAT-Cre remains a demanding process and its specific activity varies significantly among batches, making difficult data comparison. RESULTS: We noticed a strong correlation between recombinase activity and enzyme monodispersity. The existence of such correlation enabled us to indirectly monitor the TAT-Cre recombinase activity during the multi-step purification process by measuring its monodispersity, a parameter detectable by means of a spectrofluorimetric assay that allows the calculation of the Aggregation Index (AI) in an easy and rapid way. AI values were recorded after each purification passage to identify the critical steps and to choose optimal alternatives for chromatographic conditions, desalting procedures, and protocols for bacterial endotoxin removal. Furthermore, the effect of metal ions and temperature on TAT-Cre aggregation and inactivation was characterized in vitro. Finally, we optimized the enzyme delivery protocol in vivo by following the accumulation tuning of the reporter protein beta-catenin. CONCLUSION: A rational purification protocol for TAT-Cre has been developed by choosing the options that minimize the enzyme aggregation. Our data suggest that AI measurement should support the optimization of any protocol aiming at the recovery of monodispersed protein.