Subunits of highly Fluorescent Protein R-Phycoerythrin as Probes for Cell Imaging and Single-Molecule Detection

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The purposes of our research were: (1) To characterize subunits of highly fluorescent protein R-Phycoerythrin (R-PE) and check their suitability for single-molecule detection (SMD) and cell imaging, (2) To extend the use of R-PE subunits through design of similar proteins that will be used as probes for microscopy and spectral imaging in a single cell, and (3) To demonstrate a high-throughput spectral imaging method that will rival spectral flow cytometry in the analysis of individual cells. We first demonstrated that R-PE subunits have spectroscopic and structural characteristics that make them suitable for SMD. Subunits were isolated from R-PE by high-performance ... continued below

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Isailovic, Dragan December 17, 2005.

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The purposes of our research were: (1) To characterize subunits of highly fluorescent protein R-Phycoerythrin (R-PE) and check their suitability for single-molecule detection (SMD) and cell imaging, (2) To extend the use of R-PE subunits through design of similar proteins that will be used as probes for microscopy and spectral imaging in a single cell, and (3) To demonstrate a high-throughput spectral imaging method that will rival spectral flow cytometry in the analysis of individual cells. We first demonstrated that R-PE subunits have spectroscopic and structural characteristics that make them suitable for SMD. Subunits were isolated from R-PE by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and detected as single molecules by total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM). In addition, R-PE subunits and their enzymatic digests were characterized by several separation and detection methods including HPLC, capillary electrophoresis, sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrilamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and HPLC-electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS). Favorable absorption and fluorescence of the R-PE subunits and digest peptides originate from phycoerythrobilin (PEB) and phycourobilin (PUB) chromophores that are covalently attached to cysteine residues. High absorption coefficients and strong fluorescence (even under denaturing conditions), broad excitation and emission fluorescence spectra in the visible region of electromagnetic spectrum, and relatively low molecular weights make these molecules suitable for use as fluorescence labels of biomolecules and cells. We further designed fluorescent proteins both in vitro and in vivo (in Escherichia coli) based on the highly specific attachment of PEB chromophore to genetically expressed apo-subunits of R-PE. In one example, apo-alpha and apo-beta R-PE subunits were cloned from red algae Polisiphonia boldii (P. boldii), and expressed in E. coli. Although expressed apo-subunits formed inclusion bodies, fluorescent holo-subunits were formed after incubation of E. coli cells with PEB. Spectroscopic characterization of holo-subunits confirmed that the attachment of PEB chromophore to apo-subunits yielded holo-subunits containing both PEB and urobilin (UB). Fluorescence and differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy showed polar location of holo-subunit inclusion bodies in E. coli cells. In another example, R-PE apo-subunits were genetically fused to cytoplasmic and periplasmic versions of E. coli maltose binding protein (MBP). Fluorescent proteins formed after attachment of PEB to MBP-subunit fusions in vitro and in vivo contained PEB as the sole chromophore, were soluble, and displayed high orange fluorescence. Fluorescence microscopy showed that fusions are located either throughout cells or at cell poles. In addition, cells containing fluorescent holo-subunits or MBP-subunit fusions were up to ten times brighter than control cells as measured by flow cytometry. Results show that the fluorescent proteins formed after non-enzymatic attachment of PEB to R-PE subunit fusions could be used as reporters of gene expression and protein localization in cells as well as fluorescence labels in flow cytometry. Finally, we demonstrated a high-throughput method able to record emission fluorescence spectra of individual cells containing fluorescent proteins. Upon excitation with a 488 mn argon-ion laser many bacterial cells were imaged by a 20X microscope objective while they moved through a capillary tube. Fluorescence was dispersed by a transmission diffraction grating, and an intensified charge-coupled device (ICCD) camera simultaneously recorded the zero and the first orders of the fluorescence from each cell. Single-cell fluorescence spectra were reconstructed from the distance between zero-order and first-order maxima as well as the length and the pixel intensity distribution of the first-order images. By using this approach, the emission spectrum of E. coli cells expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) was reconstructed. Also, fluorescence spectra of E. coli cells expressing apo-subunits of R-PE were recorded after incubation of the cells with PEB. The fluorescence spectra are in good agreement with results obtained on the same cells using a fluorescence spectrometer and a fluorescence microscope. When spectra are to be acquired, this approach could have a higher throughput, better sensitivity, and better spectral resolution compared to spectral flow cytometry.

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  • Report No.: IS-T 2290
  • Grant Number: W-7405-Eng-82
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 861609
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc792613

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  • December 17, 2005

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  • Dec. 19, 2015, 7:14 p.m.

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  • Sept. 21, 2017, 8:47 p.m.

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Isailovic, Dragan. Subunits of highly Fluorescent Protein R-Phycoerythrin as Probes for Cell Imaging and Single-Molecule Detection, thesis or dissertation, December 17, 2005; Ames, Iowa. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc792613/: accessed July 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.