Author(s): Zheng H, Bi J, Krendel M, Loh SN, Zheng H, Bi J, Krendel M, Loh SN
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Abstract Biosensors can be used in applications ranging from identifying disease biomarkers to detecting spatial and temporal distributions of specific molecules in living cells. A major challenge facing biosensor development is how to functionally couple a biological recognition domain to an output module so that the binding event can be transduced to a visible and quantifiable signal [e.g., Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)]. Most designs achieve coupling by means of a binding protein that changes conformation upon interacting with its target. This approach is limited by the fact that few proteins possess such natural allosteric mechanisms, and for those that do, the conformational change is frequently not extensive enough to produce a large change in distance between FRET donor and acceptor groups. Here, we introduce protein fragment exchange (FREX) to address both problems. FREX employs two components: a folded binding protein and a fragment duplicated from it, the latter of which can be chosen from many possible fragments. The system is rationally tuned so that addition of ligand induces a conformational change in which the fragment exchanges positions with the corresponding segment of the binding protein. Placing fluorescent donor and acceptor groups on the binding protein and fragment reduces the background level of FRET of the unbound sensor, resulting in a ratiometric FRET response that is expected to be strong and reproducible from protein to protein. FREX is demonstrated using fibronectin III, a monobody binding scaffold that has been tailored to recognize multiple targets. Sensors labeled with Alexa FRET pairs exhibit ratiometric FRET changes of up to 8.6-fold and perform equally well in buffer and serum. A genetically encoded variant of this sensor is shown to be functional in cell lysates and in mammalian cell cultures.
This article was published in Biochemistry
and referenced in Biosensors Journal