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Nat Biotechnol. 2001 Feb;19(2):167-9.

Imaging FRET between spectrally similar GFP molecules in single cells.

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Cell Biophysics Laboratory, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, UK.


Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) detection in fusion constructs consisting of green fluorescent protein (GFP) variants linked by a sequence that changes conformation upon modification by enzymes or binding of ligands has enabled detection of physiological processes such as Ca(2+) ion release, and protease and kinase activity. Current FRET microscopy techniques are limited to the use of spectrally distinct GFPs such as blue or cyan donors in combination with green or yellow acceptors. The blue or cyan GFPs have the disadvantages of less brightness and of autofluorescence. Here a FRET imaging method is presented that circumvents the need for spectral separation of the GFPs by determination of the fluorescence lifetime of the combined donor/acceptor emission by fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM). This technique gives a sensitive, reproducible, and intrinsically calibrated FRET measurement that can be used with the spectrally similar and bright yellow and green fluorescent proteins (EYFP/EGFP), a pair previously unusable for FRET applications. We demonstrate the benefits of this approach in the analysis of single-cell signaling by monitoring caspase activity in individual cells during apoptosis.

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