A solubility reporter for measuring a protein's solubility in vivo or in vitro is described. The reporter, which can be used in a single living cell, gives a specific signal suitable for determining whether the cell bears a soluble version of the protein of interest. A pool of random mutants of an arbitrary protein, generated using error-prone in vitro recombination, may also be screened for more soluble versions using the reporter, and these versions may be recombined to yield variants having further-enhanced solubility. The method of the present invention includes "irrational" (random mutagenesis) methods, which do not require a priori knowledge of the three-dimensional structure of the protein of interest. Multiple sequences of mutation/genetic recombination and selection for improved solubility are demonstrated to yield versions of the protein which display enhanced solubility.
This invention was made with government support under Contract No. W-7405-ENG-36 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to The Regents of the University of California. The government has certain rights in the invention.