Monovalent Strep-Tactin for strong and site-specific tethering in nanospectroscopy
Strep-Tactin, an engineered form of streptavidin, binds avidly to the genetically encoded peptide Strep-tag II in a manner comparable to streptavidin binding to biotin. These interactions have been used in protein purification and detection applications. However, in single-molecule studies, for example using atomic force microscopy-based single-molecule force spectroscopy (AFM-SMFS), the tetravalency of these systems impedes the measurement of monodispersed data. Here, we introduce a monovalent form of Strep-Tactin that harbours a unique binding site for Strep-tag II and a single cysteine that allows Strep-Tactin to specifically attach to the atomic force microscope cantilever and form a consistent pulling geometry to obtain homogeneous rupture data. Using AFM-SMFS, the mechanical properties of the interaction between Strep-tag II and monovalent Strep-Tactin were characterized. Rupture forces comparable to biotin:streptavidin unbinding were observed. Using titin kinase and green fluorescent protein, we show that monovalent Strep-Tactin is generally applicable to protein unfolding experiments. We expect monovalent Strep-Tactin to be a reliable anchoring tool for a range of single-molecule studies.