We describe an adjustable membrane-tethered/soluble protein screening methodology termed ECSTASY (enzyme cleavable surface tethered all-purpose screening system) which combines the power of high-throughput fluorescence-activated cell sorting of membrane-tethered proteins with the flexibility of soluble assays for isolation of improved mammalian recombinant proteins. In this approach, retroviral transduction is employed to stably tether a library of protein variants on the surface of mammalian cells via a glycosyl phosphatidylinositol anchor. High-throughput fluorescence-activated cell sorting is used to array cells expressing properly folded and/or active protein variants on their surface into micro-titer culture plates. After culture to expand individual clones, treatment of cells with phosphatidylinositol-phospholipase C releases soluble protein variants for multiplex measurement of protein concentration, activity and/or function. We utilized ECSTASY to rapidly generate human beta-glucuronidase variants for cancer therapy by antibody-directed enzyme prodrug therapy with up to 30-fold greater potency to catalyze the hydrolysis of the clinically relevant camptothecin anti-cancer prodrug as compared with wild-type human beta-glucuronidase. A variety of recombinant proteins could be adjustably displayed on fibroblasts, suggesting that ECSTASY represents a general, simple and versatile methodology for high-throughput screening to accelerate sequence activity-based evolution of mammalian proteins.
Protein Engineering Design & Selection, 25(7), 367-375