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Anal Chem. 2001 Jul 1;73(13):2920-8.

Imaging of conformational changes of proteins with a new environment-sensitive fluorescent probe designed for site-specific labeling of recombinant proteins in live cells.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, School of Science, The University of Tokyo, Hongo, Japan.


We demonstrate herein a new method for imaging conformational changes of proteins in live cells using a new synthetic environment-sensitive fluorescent probe, 9-amino-6,8-bis(1,3,2-dithioarsolan-2-yl)-5H-benzo[a]phenoxazin-5-one. This fluorescent probe can be attached to recombinant proteins containing four cysteine residues at the i, i + 1, i + 4, and i + 5 positions of an alpha-helix. The specific binding of the fluorescent probe to this 4Cys motif enables fluorescent labeling inside cells by its extracellular administration. The high sensitivity of the fluorophore to its environment enables monitoring of the conformational changes of the proteins in live cells as changes in its fluorescence intensity. The present method was applied to calmodulin (CaM), a Ca2+-binding protein that was well-known to expose hydrophobic domains, depending on the Ca2+ concentration. A recombinant CaM fused at its C-terminal with a helical peptide containing a 4Cys motif was labeled with the fluorescent probe inside live cells. The fluorescence intensity changed reversibly depending on the intracellular Ca2+ concentration, which reflected the conformational change of the recombinant CaM in the live cells.

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