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PLoS One. 2010 Oct 21;5(10):e13524. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013524.

Generation of double-labeled reporter cell lines for studying co-dynamics of endogenous proteins in individual human cells.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


Understanding the dynamic relationship between components of a system or pathway at the individual cell level is a current challenge. To address this, we developed an approach that allows simultaneous tracking of several endogenous proteins of choice within individual living human cells. The approach is based on fluorescent tagging of proteins at their native locus by directed gene targeting. A fluorescent tag-encoding DNA is introduced as a new exon into the intronic region of the gene of interest, resulting in expression of a full-length fluorescently tagged protein. We used this approach to establish human cell lines simultaneously expressing two components of a major antioxidant defense system, thioredoxin 1 (Trx) and thioredoxin reductase 1 (TrxR1), labeled with CFP and YFP, respectively. We find that the distributions of both proteins between nuclear and cytoplasmic compartments were highly variable between cells. However, the two proteins did not vary independently of each other: protein levels of Trx and TrxR1 in both the whole cell and the nucleus were substantially correlated. We further find that in response to a stress-inducing drug (CPT), both Trx and TrxR1 accumulated in the nuclei in a manner that was highly temporally correlated. This accumulation considerably reduced cell-to-cell variability in nuclear content of both proteins, suggesting a uniform response of the thioredoxin system to stress. These results indicate that Trx and TrxR1 act in concert in response to stress in regard to both time course and variability. Thus, our approach provides an efficient tool for studying dynamic relationship between components of systems of interest at a single-cell level.

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