The ALFA-tag is a highly versatile tool for nanobody-based bioscience applications
Götzke, H., Kilisch, M., Martínez-Carranza, M., Sograte-Idrissi, S., Rajavel, A., Schlichthaerle, T., ... & Frey, S.
Assay systems, Fluorescence imaging, Preclinical research, Protein purification, Super-resolution microscopy
Specialized epitope tags are widely used for detecting, manipulating or purifying proteins, but often their versatility is limited. Here, we introduce the ALFA-tag, a rationally designed epitope tag that serves a remarkably broad spectrum of applications in life sciences while outperforming established tags like the HA-, FLAG®- or myc-tag. The ALFA-tag forms a small and stable α-helix that is functional irrespective of its position on the target protein in prokaryotic and eukaryotic hosts. We characterize a nanobody (NbALFA) binding ALFA-tagged proteins from native or fixed specimen with low picomolar affinity. It is ideally suited for super-resolution microscopy, immunoprecipitations and Western blotting, and also allows in vivo detection of proteins. We show the crystal structure of the complex that enabled us to design a nanobody mutant (NbALFAPE) that permits efficient one-step purifications of native ALFA-tagged proteins, complexes and even entire living cells using peptide elution under physiological conditions.