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A quantitative protocol for dynamic measurements of protein interactions by Forster resonance energy transfer-sensitized fluorescence emission

Elder AD, Domin A, Kaminski Schierle GS, Lindon C, Pines J, Esposito A, and Kaminski CF, "A quantitative protocol for dynamic measurements of protein interactions by FRET-sensitized fluorescence emission". Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Volume 6, S59-S81, (2009), DOI:10.1098/rsif.2008.0381.focus | pdf


Fluorescence detection of acceptor molecules sensitized by Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) is a powerful method to study protein interactions in living cells. The method requires correction for donor spectral bleed-through and acceptor cross-excitation as well as the correct normalization of signals to account for varying fluorophore concentrations and imaging parameters. In this paper, we review different methods for FRET signal normalization and then present a rigorous model for sensitized emission measurements, which is both intuitive to understand and practical to apply. The method is validated by comparison with the acceptor photobleaching and donor lifetime-imaging techniques in live cell samples containing EYFP and ECFP tandem constructs exhibiting known amounts of FRET. By varying the stoichiometry of interaction in a controlled fashion, we show that information on the fractions of interacting donors and acceptors can be recovered. Furthermore, the method is tested by performing measurements on different microscopy platforms in both widefield and confocal imaging modes to show that signals recovered under different imaging conditions are in quantitative agreement. Finally, the method is applied in the study of dynamic interactions in the cyclin–cdk family of proteins in live cells. By normalizing the obtained signals for both acceptor and donor concentrations and using a FRET exhibiting control construct for calibration, stoichiometric changes in these interactions could be visualized in real time. The paper is written to be of practical use to researchers interested in performing sensitized emission measurements. The correct interpretation of the retrieved signals in a biological context is emphasized, and guidelines are given for the practical application of the developed algorithms.