An improved protocol to purify and directly mono-biotinylate recombinant BDNF in a tube for cellular trafficking studies in neurons

Nicolás Stuardo, Guillermo Moya-Alvarado, Carolina Ramírez, Giampietro Schiavo, Francisca C. Bronfman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Recombinant BDNF containing an Avi sequence (BDNFAvi) is produced in HEK293 cells and then cost-effectively purified by affinity chromatography. A reproducible protocol was developed to directly mono-biotinylate BDNFAvi with the enzyme BirA in a tube. In this reaction, mono-biotinylated BDNFAvi retains its biological activity. Neurotrophins are target-derived growth factors playing a role in neuronal development and maintenance. They require rapid transport mechanisms along the endocytic pathway to allow long-distance signaling between different neuronal compartments. The development of molecular tools to study the trafficking of neurotrophins has enabled the precise tracking of these proteins in the cell using in vivo recording. In this protocol, we developed an optimized and cost-effective procedure for the production of mono-biotinylated BDNF. A recombinant BDNF variant containing a biotinylable avi sequence (BDNFAvi) is produced in HEK293 cells in the microgram range and then purified in an easily scalable procedure using affinity chromatography. The purified BDNF can then be homogeneously mono-biotinylated by a direct in vitro reaction with the enzyme BirA in a tube. The biological activity of the mono-biotinylated BDNF (mbtBDNF) can be conjugated to streptavidin-conjugated to different fluorophores. BDNFAvi and mbtBDNF retain their biological activity demonstrated through the detection of downstream phosphorylated targets using western blot and activation of the transcription factor CREB, respectively. Using streptavidin-quantum dots, we were able to visualize mbtBDNF internalization concomitant with activation of CREB, which was detected with a phospho-CREB specific antibody. In addition, mbtBDNF conjugated to streptavidin-quantum dots was suitable for retrograde transport analysis in cortical neurons grown in microfluidic chambers. Thus, in tube produced mbtBDNF is a reliable tool to study physiological signaling endosome dynamics and trafficking in neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere61262
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number161
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


Dive into the research topics of 'An improved protocol to purify and directly mono-biotinylate recombinant BDNF in a tube for cellular trafficking studies in neurons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this