Research ResourceBIOSENSORS

A Versatile Toolkit to Produce Sensitive FRET Biosensors to Visualize Signaling in Time and Space

Sci. Signal.  23 Jul 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 285, pp. rs12
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004135

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Abstract

Genetically encoded, ratiometric biosensors based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) are powerful tools to study the spatiotemporal dynamics of cell signaling. However, many biosensors lack sensitivity. We present a biosensor library that contains circularly permutated mutants for both the donor and acceptor fluorophores, which alter the orientation of the dipoles and thus better accommodate structural constraints imposed by different signaling molecules while maintaining FRET efficiency. Our strategy improved the brightness and dynamic range of preexisting RhoA and extracellular signal–regulated protein kinase (ERK) biosensors. Using the improved RhoA biosensor, we found micrometer-sized zones of RhoA activity at the tip of F-actin bundles in growth cone filopodia during neurite extension, whereas RhoA was globally activated throughout collapsing growth cones. RhoA was also activated in filopodia and protruding membranes at the leading edge of motile fibroblasts. Using the improved ERK biosensor, we simultaneously measured ERK activation dynamics in multiple cells using low-magnification microscopy and performed in vivo FRET imaging in zebrafish. Thus, we provide a construction toolkit consisting of a vector set, which enables facile generation of sensitive biosensors.

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