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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43072. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043072. Epub 2012 Aug 14.

pHlash: a new genetically encoded and ratiometric luminescence sensor of intracellular pH.

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  • 1Departments of Biological Science and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.

Abstract

We report the development of a genetically encodable and ratiometic pH probe named "pHlash" that utilizes Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) rather than fluorescence excitation. The pHlash sensor-composed of a donor luciferase that is genetically fused to a Venus fluorophore-exhibits pH dependence of its spectral emission in vitro. When expressed in either yeast or mammalian cells, pHlash reports basal pH and cytosolic acidification in vivo. Its spectral ratio response is H(+) specific; neither Ca(++), Mg(++), Na(+), nor K(+) changes the spectral form of its luminescence emission. Moreover, it can be used to image pH in single cells. This is the first BRET-based sensor of H(+) ions, and it should allow the approximation of pH in cytosolic and organellar compartments in applications where current pH probes are inadequate.

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