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Methods Mol Biol. 2011;680:3-28. doi: 10.1007/978-1-60761-901-7_1.

Bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) imaging in plant seedlings and mammalian cells.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235, USA.


Bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) has become a widely used technique to monitor protein-protein interactions. It involves resonance energy transfer between a bioluminescent donor and a fluorescent acceptor. Because the donor emits photons intrinsically, fluorescence excitation is unnecessary. Therefore, BRET avoids some of the problems inherent in fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) approaches, such as photobleaching, autofluorescence, and undesirable stimulation of photobiological processes. In the past, BRET signals have generally been too dim to be effectively imaged. Newly available cameras that are more sensitive coupled to image splitter now enable BRET imaging in plant and mammalian cells and tissues. In addition, new substrates and enhanced luciferases enable brighter signals that allow even subcellular BRET imaging. Here, we report methods for BRET imaging of (1) localization of COP1 dimerization in plant cells and tissues and (2) subcellular distributions of interactions of the CCAAT/Enhancer Binding Protein α (C/EBPα) in single mammalian cells. We also discuss methods for the correction of BRET images for tissues that absorb light of different spectra. This progress should catalyze further applications of BRET for imaging and high-throughput assays.

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