Chemical labeling of proteins with synthetic molecular probes offers the possibility to probe the functions of proteins of interest in living cells. However, the methods for covalently labeling targeted proteins using complementary peptide tag-probe pairs are still limited, irrespective of the versatility of such pairs in biological research. Herein, we report the new CysHis tag-Ni(II) probe pair for the specific covalent labeling of proteins. A broad-range evaluation of the reactivity profiles of the probe and the CysHis peptide tag afforded a tag-probe pair with an optimized and high labeling selectivity and reactivity. In particular, the labeling specificity of this pair was notably improved compared to the previously reported one. This pair was successfully utilized for the fluorescence imaging of membrane proteins on the surfaces of living cells, demonstrating its potential utility in biological research.
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