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J Am Chem Soc. 2010 Apr 7;132(13):4685-92. doi: 10.1021/ja100248q.

Monitoring a coordinated exchange process in a four-component biological interaction system: development of a time-resolved terbium-based one-donor/three-acceptor multicolor FRET system.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Illinois, 600 South Mathews Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.


Hormonal regulation of cellular function involves the binding of small molecules with receptors that then coordinate subsequent interactions with other signal transduction proteins. These dynamic, multicomponent processes are difficult to track in cells and even in reconstituted in vitro systems, and most methods can monitor only two-component interactions, often with limited capacity to follow dynamic changes. Through a judicious choice of three organic acceptor fluorophores paired with a terbium donor fluorophore, we have developed the first example of a one-donor/three-acceptor multicolor time-resolved fluorescence energy transfer (TR-FRET) system, and we have exemplified its use by monitoring a ligand-regulated protein-protein exchange process in a four-component biological system. By careful quantification of the emission from each of the three acceptors at the four channels for terbium donor emission, we demonstrate that any of these donor channels can be used to estimate the magnitude of the three FRET signals in this terbium-donor triple-acceptor system with minimal bleedthrough. Using this three-channel terbium-based, TR-FRET assay system, we show in one experiment that the addition of a fluorescein-labeled estrogen agonist displaces a SNAPFL-labeled antiestrogen from the ligand binding pocket of a terbium-labeled estrogen receptor, at the same time causing a Cy5-labeled coactivator to be recruited to the estrogen receptor. This experiment demonstrates the power of a four-color TR-FRET experiment, and it shows that the overall process of estrogen receptor ligand exchange and coactivator binding is a dynamic but precisely coordinated process.

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