Cell-free protein synthesis is a powerful method to explore the structure and function of membrane proteins and to analyze the targeting and translocation of proteins across the ER membrane. Developing a cell-free system based on cultured cells for the synthesis of membrane proteins could provide a highly reproducible alternative to the use of tissues from living animals. We isolated Sf21 microsomes from cultured insect cells by a simplified isolation procedure and evaluated the performance of the translocation system in combination with a cell-free translation system originating from the same source. The isolated microsomes contained the basic translocation machinery for polytopic membrane proteins including SRP-dependent targeting components, translocation channel (translocon)-dependent translocation, and the apparatus for signal peptide cleavage and N-linked glycosylation. A transporter protein synthesized with the cell-free system could be functionally reconstituted into a lipid bilayer. In addition, single and double labeling with non-natural amino acids could be achieved at both the lumen side and the cytosolic side in this system. Moreover, tail-anchored proteins, which are post-translationally integrated by the guided entry of tail-anchored proteins (GET) machinery, were inserted correctly into the microsomes. These results showed that the newly developed cell-free translocation system derived from cultured insect cells is a practical tool for the biogenesis of properly folded polytopic membrane proteins as well as tail-anchored proteins.
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