Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) microscopy continues to gain increasing interest as a technique for real-time monitoring of biochemical and signaling events in live cells and tissues. Compared to classical biochemical methods, this novel technology is characterized by high temporal and spatial resolution. FRET experiments use various genetically-encoded biosensors which can be expressed and imaged over time in situ or in vivo1-2. Typical biosensors can either report protein-protein interactions by measuring FRET between a fluorophore-tagged pair of proteins or conformational changes in a single protein which harbors donor and acceptor fluorophores interconnected with a binding moiety for a molecule of interest3-4. Bimolecular biosensors for protein-protein interactions include, for example, constructs designed to monitor G-protein activation in cells5, while the unimolecular sensors measuring conformational changes are widely used to image second messengers such as calcium6, cAMP7-8, inositol phosphates9 and cGMP10-11. Here we describe how to build a customized epifluorescence FRET imaging system from single commercially available components and how to control the whole setup using the Micro-Manager freeware. This simple but powerful instrument is designed for routine or more sophisticated FRET measurements in live cells. Acquired images are processed using self-written plug-ins to visualize changes in FRET ratio in real-time during any experiments before being stored in a graphics format compatible with the build-in ImageJ freeware used for subsequent data analysis. This low-cost system is characterized by high flexibility and can be successfully used to monitor various biochemical events and signaling molecules by a plethora of available FRET biosensors in live cells and tissues. As an example, we demonstrate how to use this imaging system to perform real-time monitoring of cAMP in live 293A cells upon stimulation with a β-adrenergic receptor agonist and blocker.
19 Related JoVE Articles!
In vivo Quantification of G Protein Coupled Receptor Interactions using Spectrally Resolved Two-photon Microscopy
Institutions: University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
The study of protein interactions in living cells is an important area of research because the information accumulated both benefits industrial applications as well as increases basic fundamental biological knowledge. Förster (Fluorescence) Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) between a donor molecule in an electronically excited state and a nearby acceptor molecule has been frequently utilized for studies of protein-protein interactions in living cells. The proteins of interest are tagged with two different types of fluorescent probes and expressed in biological cells. The fluorescent probes are then excited, typically using laser light, and the spectral properties of the fluorescence emission emanating from the fluorescent probes is collected and analyzed. Information regarding the degree of the protein interactions is embedded in the spectral emission data. Typically, the cell must be scanned a number of times in order to accumulate enough spectral information to accurately quantify the extent of the protein interactions for each region of interest within the cell. However, the molecular composition of these regions may change during the course of the acquisition process, limiting the spatial determination of the quantitative values of the apparent FRET efficiencies to an average over entire cells. By means of a spectrally resolved two-photon microscope, we are able to obtain a full set of spectrally resolved images after only one complete excitation scan of the sample of interest. From this pixel-level spectral data, a map of FRET efficiencies throughout the cell is calculated. By applying a simple theory of FRET in oligomeric complexes to the experimentally obtained distribution of FRET efficiencies throughout the cell, a single spectrally resolved scan reveals stoichiometric and structural information about the oligomer complex under study. Here we describe the procedure of preparing biological cells (the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae
) expressing membrane receptors (sterile 2 α-factor receptors) tagged with two different types of fluorescent probes. Furthermore, we illustrate critical factors involved in collecting fluorescence data using the spectrally resolved two-photon microscopy imaging system. The use of this protocol may be extended to study any type of protein which can be expressed in a living cell with a fluorescent marker attached to it.
Cellular Biology, Issue 47, Forster (Fluorescence) Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), protein-protein interactions, protein complex, in vivo determinations, spectral resolution, two-photon microscopy, G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), sterile 2 alpha-factor protein (Ste2p)
Combining QD-FRET and Microfluidics to Monitor DNA Nanocomplex Self-Assembly in Real-Time
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University.
Advances in genomics continue to fuel the development of therapeutics that can target pathogenesis at the cellular and molecular level. Typically functional inside the cell, nucleic acid-based therapeutics require an efficient intracellular delivery system. One widely adopted approach is to complex DNA with a gene carrier to form nanocomplexes via electrostatic self-assembly, facilitating cellular uptake of DNA while protecting it against degradation. The challenge lies in the rational design of efficient gene carriers, since premature dissociation or overly stable binding would be detrimental to the cellular uptake and therapeutic efficacy. Nanocomplexes synthesized by bulk mixing showed a diverse range of intracellular unpacking and trafficking behavior, which was attributed to the heterogeneity in size and stability of nanocomplexes. Such heterogeneity hinders the accurate assessment of the self-assembly kinetics and adds to the difficulty in correlating their physical properties to transfection efficiencies or bioactivities. We present a novel convergence of nanophotonics (i.e. QD-FRET) and microfluidics to characterize the real-time kinetics of the nanocomplex self-assembly under laminar flow. QD-FRET provides a highly sensitive indication of the onset of molecular interactions and quantitative measure throughout the synthesis process, whereas microfluidics offers a well-controlled microenvironment to spatially analyze the process with high temporal resolution (~milliseconds). For the model system of polymeric nanocomplexes, two distinct stages in the self-assembly process were captured by this analytic platform. The kinetic aspect of the self-assembly process obtained at the microscale would be particularly valuable for microreactor-based reactions which are relevant to many micro- and nano-scale applications. Further, nanocomplexes may be customized through proper design of microfludic devices, and the resulting QD-FRET polymeric DNA nanocomplexes could be readily applied for establishing structure-function relationships.
Biomedical Engineering, Issue 30, microfluidics, gene delivery, quantum dots, fluorescence resonance energy transfer, self-assembly, nanocomplexes
A High-throughput-compatible FRET-based Platform for Identification and Characterization of Botulinum Neurotoxin Light Chain Modulators
Institutions: The Scripps Research Institute, The Scripps Research Institute.
Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) is a potent and potentially lethal bacterial toxin that binds to host motor neurons, is internalized into the cell, and cleaves intracellular proteins that are essential for neurotransmitter release. BoNT is comprised of a heavy chain (HC), which mediates host cell binding and internalization, and a light chain (LC), which cleaves intracellular host proteins essential for acetylcholine release. While therapies that inhibit toxin binding/internalization have a small time window of administration, compounds that target intracellular LC activity have a much larger time window of administrations, particularly relevant given the extremely long half-life of the toxin. In recent years, small molecules have been heavily analyzed as potential LC inhibitors based on their increased cellular permeability relative to larger therapeutics (peptides, aptamers, etc.
). Lead identification often involves high-throughput screening (HTS), where large libraries of small molecules are screened based on their ability to modulate therapeutic target function. Here we describe a FRET-based assay with a commercial BoNT/A LC substrate and recombinant LC that can be automated for HTS of potential BoNT inhibitors. Moreover, we describe a manual technique that can be used for follow-up secondary screening, or for comparing the potency of several candidate compounds.
Chemistry, Issue 82, BoNT/A, botulinum neurotoxin, high-throughput screening, FRET, inhibitor, FRET peptide substrate, activator
Monitoring Intraspecies Competition in a Bacterial Cell Population by Cocultivation of Fluorescently Labelled Strains
Institutions: Georg-August University.
Many microorganisms such as bacteria proliferate extremely fast and the populations may reach high cell densities. Small fractions of cells in a population always have accumulated mutations that are either detrimental or beneficial for the cell. If the fitness effect of a mutation provides the subpopulation with a strong selective growth advantage, the individuals of this subpopulation may rapidly outcompete and even completely eliminate their immediate fellows. Thus, small genetic changes and selection-driven accumulation of cells that have acquired beneficial mutations may lead to a complete shift of the genotype of a cell population. Here we present a procedure to monitor the rapid clonal expansion and elimination of beneficial and detrimental mutations, respectively, in a bacterial cell population over time by cocultivation of fluorescently labeled individuals of the Gram-positive model bacterium Bacillus subtilis
. The method is easy to perform and very illustrative to display intraspecies competition among the individuals in a bacterial cell population.
Cellular Biology, Issue 83, Bacillus subtilis, evolution, adaptation, selective pressure, beneficial mutation, intraspecies competition, fluorophore-labelling, Fluorescence Microscopy
Investigating Protein-protein Interactions in Live Cells Using Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer
Institutions: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour.
Assays based on Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) provide a sensitive and reliable means to monitor protein-protein interactions in live cells. BRET is the non-radiative transfer of energy from a 'donor' luciferase enzyme to an 'acceptor' fluorescent protein. In the most common configuration of this assay, the donor is Renilla reniformis
luciferase and the acceptor is Yellow Fluorescent Protein (YFP). Because the efficiency of energy transfer is strongly distance-dependent, observation of the BRET phenomenon requires that the donor and acceptor be in close proximity. To test for an interaction between two proteins of interest in cultured mammalian cells, one protein is expressed as a fusion with luciferase and the second as a fusion with YFP. An interaction between the two proteins of interest may bring the donor and acceptor sufficiently close for energy transfer to occur. Compared to other techniques for investigating protein-protein interactions, the BRET assay is sensitive, requires little hands-on time and few reagents, and is able to detect interactions which are weak, transient, or dependent on the biochemical environment found within a live cell. It is therefore an ideal approach for confirming putative interactions suggested by yeast two-hybrid or mass spectrometry proteomics studies, and in addition it is well-suited for mapping interacting regions, assessing the effect of post-translational modifications on protein-protein interactions, and evaluating the impact of mutations identified in patient DNA.
Cellular Biology, Issue 87, Protein-protein interactions, Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Live cell, Transfection, Luciferase, Yellow Fluorescent Protein, Mutations
Glutamine Flux Imaging Using Genetically Encoded Sensors
Institutions: Virginia Tech.
Genetically encoded sensors allow real-time monitoring of biological molecules at a subcellular resolution. A tremendous variety of such sensors for biological molecules became available in the past 15 years, some of which became indispensable tools that are used routinely in many laboratories.
One of the exciting applications of genetically encoded sensors is the use of these sensors in investigating cellular transport processes. Properties of transporters such as kinetics and substrate specificities can be investigated at a cellular level, providing possibilities for cell-type specific analyses of transport activities. In this article, we will demonstrate how transporter dynamics can be observed using genetically encoded glutamine sensor as an example. Experimental design, technical details of the experimental settings, and considerations for post-experimental analyses will be discussed.
Bioengineering, Issue 89, glutamine sensors, FRET, metabolites, in vivo imaging, cellular transport, genetically encoded sensors
Studying DNA Looping by Single-Molecule FRET
Institutions: Georgia Institute of Technology.
Bending of double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) is associated with many important biological processes such as DNA-protein recognition and DNA packaging into nucleosomes. Thermodynamics of dsDNA bending has been studied by a method called cyclization which relies on DNA ligase to covalently join short sticky ends of a dsDNA. However, ligation efficiency can be affected by many factors that are not related to dsDNA looping such as the DNA structure surrounding the joined sticky ends, and ligase can also affect the apparent looping rate through mechanisms such as nonspecific binding. Here, we show how to measure dsDNA looping kinetics without ligase by detecting transient DNA loop formation by FRET (Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer). dsDNA molecules are constructed using a simple PCR-based protocol with a FRET pair and a biotin linker. The looping probability density known as the J factor is extracted from the looping rate and the annealing rate between two disconnected sticky ends. By testing two dsDNAs with different intrinsic curvatures, we show that the J factor is sensitive to the intrinsic shape of the dsDNA.
Molecular Biology, Issue 88, DNA looping, J factor, Single molecule, FRET, Gel mobility shift, DNA curvature, Worm-like chain
Luminescence Resonance Energy Transfer to Study Conformational Changes in Membrane Proteins Expressed in Mammalian Cells
Institutions: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Luminescence Resonance Energy Transfer, or LRET, is a powerful technique used to measure distances between two sites in proteins within the distance range of 10-100 Å. By measuring the distances under various ligated conditions, conformational changes of the protein can be easily assessed. With LRET, a lanthanide, most often chelated terbium, is used as the donor fluorophore, affording advantages such as a longer donor-only emission lifetime, the flexibility to use multiple acceptor fluorophores, and the opportunity to detect sensitized acceptor emission as an easy way to measure energy transfer without the risk of also detecting donor-only signal. Here, we describe a method to use LRET on membrane proteins expressed and assayed on the surface of intact mammalian cells. We introduce a protease cleavage site between the LRET fluorophore pair. After obtaining the original LRET signal, cleavage at that site removes the specific LRET signal from the protein of interest allowing us to quantitatively subtract the background signal that remains after cleavage. This method allows for more physiologically relevant measurements to be made without the need for purification of protein.
Bioengineering, Issue 91, LRET, FRET, Luminescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer, glutamate receptors, acid sensing ion channel, protein conformation, protein dynamics, fluorescence, protein-protein interactions
Internalization and Observation of Fluorescent Biomolecules in Living Microorganisms via Electroporation
Institutions: University of Oxford, Genome Center.
The ability to study biomolecules in vivo
is crucial for understanding their function in a biological context. One powerful approach involves fusing molecules of interest to fluorescent proteins such as GFP to study their expression, localization and function. However, GFP and its derivatives are significantly larger and less photostable than organic fluorophores generally used for in vitro
experiments, and this can limit the scope of investigation.
We recently introduced a straightforward, versatile and high-throughput method based on electroporation, allowing the internalization of biomolecules labeled with organic fluorophores into living microorganisms. Here we describe how to use electroporation to internalize labeled DNA fragments or proteins into Escherichia coli
and Saccharomyces cerevisiæ
, how to quantify the number of internalized molecules using fluorescence microscopy, and how to quantify the viability of electroporated cells. Data can be acquired at the single-cell or single-molecule level using fluorescence or FRET. The possibility of internalizing non-labeled molecules that trigger a physiological observable response in vivo
is also presented. Finally, strategies of optimization of the protocol for specific biological systems are discussed.
Microbiology, Issue 96, Electroporation, fluorescence, FRET, in vivo, single-molecule imaging, bacteria, Escherichia coli, yeast, internalization, labeled DNA, labeled proteins
Using Coculture to Detect Chemically Mediated Interspecies Interactions
Institutions: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill .
In nature, bacteria rarely exist in isolation; they are instead surrounded by a diverse array of other microorganisms that alter the local environment by secreting metabolites. These metabolites have the potential to modulate the physiology and differentiation of their microbial neighbors and are likely important factors in the establishment and maintenance of complex microbial communities. We have developed a fluorescence-based coculture screen to identify such chemically mediated microbial interactions. The screen involves combining a fluorescent transcriptional reporter strain with environmental microbes on solid media and allowing the colonies to grow in coculture. The fluorescent transcriptional reporter is designed so that the chosen bacterial strain fluoresces when it is expressing a particular phenotype of interest (i.e.
biofilm formation, sporulation, virulence factor production, etc
.) Screening is performed under growth conditions where this phenotype is not
expressed (and therefore the reporter strain is typically nonfluorescent). When an environmental microbe secretes a metabolite that activates this phenotype, it diffuses through the agar and activates the fluorescent reporter construct. This allows the inducing-metabolite-producing microbe to be detected: they are the nonfluorescent colonies most proximal to the fluorescent colonies. Thus, this screen allows the identification of environmental microbes that produce diffusible metabolites that activate a particular physiological response in a reporter strain. This publication discusses how to: a) select appropriate coculture screening conditions, b) prepare the reporter and environmental microbes for screening, c) perform the coculture screen, d) isolate putative inducing organisms, and e) confirm their activity in a secondary screen. We developed this method to screen for soil organisms that activate biofilm matrix-production in Bacillus subtilis
; however, we also discuss considerations for applying this approach to other genetically tractable bacteria.
Microbiology, Issue 80, High-Throughput Screening Assays, Genes, Reporter, Microbial Interactions, Soil Microbiology, Coculture, microbial interactions, screen, fluorescent transcriptional reporters, Bacillus subtilis
Ratiometric Biosensors that Measure Mitochondrial Redox State and ATP in Living Yeast Cells
Institutions: Columbia University, Columbia University.
Mitochondria have roles in many cellular processes, from energy metabolism and calcium homeostasis to control of cellular lifespan and programmed cell death. These processes affect and are affected by the redox status of and ATP production by mitochondria. Here, we describe the use of two ratiometric, genetically encoded biosensors that can detect mitochondrial redox state and ATP levels at subcellular resolution in living yeast cells. Mitochondrial redox state is measured using redox-sensitive Green Fluorescent Protein (roGFP) that is targeted to the mitochondrial matrix. Mito-roGFP contains cysteines at positions 147 and 204 of GFP, which undergo reversible and environment-dependent oxidation and reduction, which in turn alter the excitation spectrum of the protein. MitGO-ATeam is a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) probe in which the ε subunit of the Fo
-ATP synthase is sandwiched between FRET donor and acceptor fluorescent proteins. Binding of ATP to the ε subunit results in conformation changes in the protein that bring the FRET donor and acceptor in close proximity and allow for fluorescence resonance energy transfer from the donor to acceptor.
Bioengineering, Issue 77, Microbiology, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, life sciences, roGFP, redox-sensitive green fluorescent protein, GO-ATeam, ATP, FRET, ROS, mitochondria, biosensors, GFP, ImageJ, microscopy, confocal microscopy, cell, imaging
Quantitative FRET (Förster Resonance Energy Transfer) Analysis for SENP1 Protease Kinetics Determination
Institutions: University of California, Riverside .
Reversible posttranslational modifications of proteins with ubiquitin or ubiquitin-like proteins (Ubls) are widely used to dynamically regulate protein activity and have diverse roles in many biological processes. For example, SUMO covalently modifies a large number or proteins with important roles in many cellular processes, including cell-cycle regulation, cell survival and death, DNA damage response, and stress response 1-5. SENP, as SUMO-specific protease, functions as an endopeptidase in the maturation of SUMO precursors or as an isopeptidase to remove SUMO from its target proteins and refresh the SUMOylation cycle 1,3,6,7
The catalytic efficiency or specificity of an enzyme is best characterized by the ratio of the kinetic constants, kcat
. In several studies, the kinetic parameters of SUMO-SENP pairs have been determined by various methods, including polyacrylamide gel-based western-blot, radioactive-labeled substrate, fluorescent compound or protein labeled substrate 8-13
. However, the polyacrylamide-gel-based techniques, which used the "native" proteins but are laborious and technically demanding, that do not readily lend themselves to detailed quantitative analysis. The obtained kcat
from studies using tetrapeptides or proteins with an ACC (7-amino-4-carbamoylmetylcoumarin) or AMC (7-amino-4-methylcoumarin) fluorophore were either up to two orders of magnitude lower than the natural substrates or cannot clearly differentiate the iso- and endopeptidase activities of SENPs.
Recently, FRET-based protease assays were used to study the deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) or SENPs with the FRET pair of cyan fluorescent protein (CFP) and yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) 9,10,14,15
. The ratio of acceptor emission to donor emission was used as the quantitative parameter for FRET signal monitor for protease activity determination. However, this method ignored signal cross-contaminations at the acceptor and donor emission wavelengths by acceptor and donor self-fluorescence and thus was not accurate.
We developed a novel highly sensitive and quantitative FRET-based protease assay for determining the kinetic parameters of pre-SUMO1 maturation by SENP1. An engineered FRET pair CyPet and YPet with significantly improved FRET efficiency and fluorescence quantum yield, were used to generate the CyPet-(pre-SUMO1)-YPet substrate 16
. We differentiated and quantified absolute fluorescence signals contributed by the donor and acceptor and FRET at the acceptor and emission wavelengths, respectively. The value of kcat
was obtained as (3.2 ± 0.55) x107
of SENP1 toward pre-SUMO1, which is in agreement with general enzymatic kinetic parameters. Therefore, this methodology is valid and can be used as a general approach to characterize other proteases as well.
Bioengineering, Issue 72, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Proteins, Quantitative FRET analysis, QFRET, enzyme kinetics analysis, SENP, SUMO, plasmid, protein expression, protein purification, protease assay, quantitative analysis
Real-time Monitoring of Ligand-receptor Interactions with Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
Institutions: Southern Illinois University.
FRET is a process whereby energy is non-radiatively transferred from an excited donor molecule to a ground-state acceptor molecule through long-range dipole-dipole interactions1
. In the present sensing assay, we utilize an interesting property of PDA: blue-shift in the UV-Vis electronic absorption spectrum of PDA (Figure 1
) after an analyte interacts with receptors attached to PDA2,3,4,7
. This shift in the PDA absorption spectrum provides changes in the spectral overlap (J
) between PDA (acceptor) and rhodamine (donor) that leads to changes in the FRET efficiency. Thus, the interactions between analyte (ligand) and receptors are detected through FRET between donor fluorophores and PDA. In particular, we show the sensing of a model protein molecule streptavidin. We also demonstrate the covalent-binding of bovine serum albumin (BSA) to the liposome surface with FRET mechanism. These interactions between the bilayer liposomes and protein molecules can be sensed in real-time. The proposed method is a general method for sensing small chemical and large biochemical molecules. Since fluorescence is intrinsically more sensitive than colorimetry, the detection limit of the assay can be in sub-nanomolar range or lower8
. Further, PDA can act as a universal acceptor in FRET, which means that multiple sensors can be developed with PDA (acceptor) functionalized with donors and different receptors attached on the surface of PDA liposomes.
Biochemistry, Issue 66, Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), Polydiacetylene (PDA), Biosensor, Liposome, Sensing
Single-cell Analysis of Bacillus subtilis Biofilms Using Fluorescence Microscopy and Flow Cytometry
Institutions: University of Würzburg.
Biofilm formation is a general attribute to almost all bacteria 1-6
. When bacteria form biofilms, cells are encased in extracellular matrix that is mostly constituted by proteins and exopolysaccharides, among other factors 7-10
. The microbial community encased within the biofilm often shows the differentiation of distinct subpopulation of specialized cells 11-17
. These subpopulations coexist and often show spatial and temporal organization within the biofilm 18-21
Biofilm formation in the model organism Bacillus subtilis
requires the differentiation of distinct subpopulations of specialized cells. Among them, the subpopulation of matrix producers, responsible to produce and secrete the extracellular matrix of the biofilm is essential for biofilm formation 11,19
. Hence, differentiation of matrix producers is a hallmark of biofilm formation in B. subtilis.
We have used fluorescent reporters to visualize and quantify the subpopulation of matrix producers in biofilms of B. subtilis 15,19,22-24
. Concretely, we have observed that the subpopulation of matrix producers differentiates in response to the presence of self-produced extracellular signal surfactin 25
. Interestingly, surfactin is produced by a subpopulation of specialized cells different from the subpopulation of matrix producers 15
We have detailed in this report the technical approach necessary to visualize and quantify the subpopulation of matrix producers and surfactin producers within the biofilms of B. subtilis
. To do this, fluorescent reporters of genes required for matrix production and surfactin production are inserted into the chromosome of B. subtilis
. Reporters are expressed only in a subpopulation of specialized cells. Then, the subpopulations can be monitored using fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry (See Fig 1).
The fact that different subpopulations of specialized cells coexist within multicellular communities of bacteria gives us a different perspective about the regulation of gene expression in prokaryotes. This protocol addresses this phenomenon experimentally and it can be easily adapted to any other working model, to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying phenotypic heterogeneity within a microbial community.
Immunology, Issue 60, Bacillus subtilis, biofilm formation, gene expression, cell differentiation, single-cell analysis
Monitoring Kinase and Phosphatase Activities Through the Cell Cycle by Ratiometric FRET
Institutions: Karolinska Institutet.
Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based reporters1
allow the assessment of endogenous kinase and phosphatase activities in living cells. Such probes typically consist of variants of CFP and YFP, intervened by a phosphorylatable sequence and a phospho-binding domain. Upon phosphorylation, the probe changes conformation, which results in a change of the distance or orientation between CFP and YFP, leading to a change in FRET efficiency (Fig 1). Several probes have been published during the last decade, monitoring the activity balance of multiple kinases and phosphatases, including reporters of PKA2
, Aurora B9
. Given the modular design, additional probes are likely to emerge in the near future10
Progression through the cell cycle is affected by stress signaling pathways 11
. Notably, the cell cycle is regulated differently during unperturbed growth compared to when cells are recovering from stress12
.Time-lapse imaging of cells through the cell cycle therefore requires particular caution. This becomes a problem particularly when employing ratiometric imaging, since two images with a high signal to noise ratio are required to correctly interpret the results. Ratiometric FRET imaging of cell cycle dependent changes in kinase and phosphatase activities has predominately been restricted to sub-sections of the cell cycle8,9,13,14
Here, we discuss a method to monitor FRET-based probes using ratiometric imaging throughout the human cell cycle. The method relies on equipment that is available to many researchers in life sciences and does not require expert knowledge of microscopy or image processing.
Molecular Biology, Issue 59, FRET, kinase, phosphatase, live cell, cell cycle, mitosis, Plk1
Bimolecular Fluorescence Complementation
Institutions: University of Illinois at Chicago.
Defining the subcellular distribution of signaling complexes is imperative to understanding the output from that complex.
Conventional methods such as immunoprecipitation do not provide information on the spatial localization of complexes. In contrast, BiFC monitors the interaction and subcellular compartmentalization of protein complexes. In this method, a fluororescent protein is split into amino- and carboxy-terminal non-fluorescent fragments which are then fused to two proteins of interest. Interaction of the proteins results in reconstitution of the fluorophore (Figure 1)1,2
. A limitation of BiFC is that once the fragmented fluorophore is reconstituted the complex is irreversible3
. This limitation is advantageous in detecting transient or weak interactions, but precludes a kinetic analysis of complex dynamics. An additional caveat is that the reconstituted flourophore requires 30min to mature and fluoresce, again precluding the observation of real time interactions4
. BiFC is a specific example of the protein fragment complementation assay (PCA) which employs reporter proteins such as green fluorescent protein variants (BiFC), dihydrofolate reductase, b-lactamase, and luciferase to measure protein:protein interactions5,6
. Alternative methods to study protein:protein interactions in cells include fluorescence co-localization and Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)7
. For co-localization, two proteins are individually tagged either directly with a fluorophore or by indirect immunofluorescence. However, this approach leads to high background of non-interacting proteins making it difficult to interpret co-localization data. In addition, due to the limits of resolution of confocal microscopy, two proteins may appear co-localized without necessarily interacting. With BiFC, fluorescence is only observed when the two proteins of interest interact. FRET is another excellent method for studying protein:protein interactions, but can be technically challenging. FRET experiments require the donor and acceptor to be of similar brightness and stoichiometry in the cell. In addition, one must account for bleed through of the donor into the acceptor channel and vice versa. Unlike FRET, BiFC has little background fluorescence, little post processing of image data, does not require high overexpression, and can detect weak or transient interactions. Bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) is a method similar to FRET except the donor is an enzyme (e.g. luciferase) that catalyzes a substrate to become bioluminescent thereby exciting an acceptor. BRET lacks the technical problems of bleed through and high background fluorescence but lacks the ability to provide spatial information due to the lack of substrate localization to specific compartments8
. Overall, BiFC is an excellent method for visualizing subcellular localization of protein complexes to gain insight into compartmentalized signaling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 50, Fluorescence, imaging, compartmentalized signaling, subcellular localization, signal transduction
Imaging Protein-protein Interactions in vivo
Institutions: Virginia Commonwealth University.
Protein-protein interactions are a hallmark of all essential cellular processes. However, many of these interactions are transient, or energetically weak, preventing their identification and analysis through traditional biochemical methods such as co-immunoprecipitation. In this regard, the genetically encodable fluorescent proteins (GFP, RFP, etc.) and their associated overlapping fluorescence spectrum have revolutionized our ability to monitor weak interactions in vivo
using Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)1-3
. Here, we detail our use of a FRET-based proximity assay for monitoring receptor-receptor interactions on the endothelial cell surface.
Cellular Biology, Issue 44, Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), confocal microscopy, angiogenesis, fluorescent proteins, protein interactions, receptors
Automated System for Single Molecule Fluorescence Measurements of Surface-immobilized Biomolecules
Institutions: Boston University, Boston University.
Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) microscopy has been widely used to study the structure and dynamics of molecules of biological interest, such as nucleic acids and proteins. Single molecule FRET (sm-FRET) measurements on immobilized molecules permit long observations of the system -effectively until both dyes photobleach- resulting in time-traces that report on biomolecular dynamics with a broad range of timescales from milliseconds to minutes. To facilitate the acquisition of large number of traces for statistical analyses, the process must be automated and the sample environment should be tightly controlled over the entire measurement time (~12 hours). This is accomplished using an automated scanning confocal microscope that allows the interrogation of thousands of single molecules overnight, and a microfluidic cell that permits the controlled exchange of buffer, with restricted oxygen content and maintains a constant temperature throughout the entire measuring period. Here we show how to assemble the microfluidic device and how to activate its surface for DNA immobilization. Then we explain how to prepare a buffer to maximize the photostability and lifetime of the fluorophores. Finally, we show the steps involved in preparing the setup for the automated acquisition of time-resolved single molecule FRET traces of DNA molecules.
Cellular Biology, Issue 33, single molecule FRET, DNA, surface immobilization, microfluidics, confocal microscope
The Neuromuscular Junction: Measuring Synapse Size, Fragmentation and Changes in Synaptic Protein Density Using Confocal Fluorescence Microscopy
Institutions: University of Sydney, Macquarie University, University of Sydney.
The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is the large, cholinergic relay synapse through which mammalian motor neurons control voluntary muscle contraction. Structural changes at the NMJ can result in neurotransmission failure, resulting in weakness, atrophy and even death of the muscle fiber. Many studies have investigated how genetic modifications or disease can alter the structure of the mouse NMJ. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to directly compare findings from these studies because they often employed different parameters and analytical methods. Three protocols are described here. The first uses maximum intensity projection confocal images to measure the area of acetylcholine receptor (AChR)-rich postsynaptic membrane domains at the endplate and the area of synaptic vesicle staining in the overlying presynaptic nerve terminal. The second protocol compares the relative intensities of immunostaining for synaptic proteins in the postsynaptic membrane. The third protocol uses Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) to detect changes in the packing of postsynaptic AChRs at the endplate. The protocols have been developed and refined over a series of studies. Factors that influence the quality and consistency of results are discussed and normative data are provided for NMJs in healthy young adult mice.
Neuroscience, Issue 94, neuromuscular, motor endplate, motor control, sarcopenia, myasthenia gravis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, morphometry, confocal, immunofluorescence