skip to main content

Title: A single point mutation converts a proton-pumping rhodopsin into a red-shifted, turn-on fluorescent sensor for chloride
The visualization of chloride in living cells with fluorescent sensors is linked to our ability to design hosts that can overcome the energetic penalty of desolvation to bind chloride in water. Fluorescent proteins can be used as biological supramolecular hosts to address this fundamental challenge. Here, we showcase the power of protein engineering to convert the fluorescent proton-pumping rhodopsin GR from Gloeobacter violaceus into GR1, a red-shifted, turn-on fluorescent sensor for chloride in detergent micelles and in live Escherichia coli . This non-natural function was unlocked by mutating D121, which serves as the counterion to the protonated retinylidene Schiff base chromophore. Substitution from aspartate to valine at this position (D121V) creates a binding site for chloride. The binding of chloride tunes the p K a of the chromophore towards the protonated, fluorescent state to generate a pH-dependent response. Moreover, ion pumping assays combined with bulk fluorescence and single-cell fluorescence microscopy experiments with E. coli , expressing a GR1 fusion with a cyan fluorescent protein, show that GR1 does not pump ions nor sense membrane potential but instead provides a reversible, ratiometric readout of changes in extracellular chloride at the membrane. This discovery sets the stage to use natural and laboratory-guided more » evolution to build a family of rhodopsin-based fluorescent chloride sensors with improved properties for cellular applications and learn how proteins can evolve and adapt to bind anions in water. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1943442
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10300759
Journal Name:
Chemical Science
Volume:
12
Issue:
15
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
5655 to 5663
ISSN:
2041-6520
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Natural and laboratory-guided evolution has created a rich diversity of fluorescent protein (FP)-based sensors for chloride (Cl − ). To date, such sensors have been limited to the Aequorea victoria green fluorescent protein (avGFP) family, and fusions with other FPs have unlocked ratiometric imaging applications. Recently, we identified the yellow fluorescent protein from jellyfish Phialidium sp. (phiYFP) as a fluorescent turn-on, self-ratiometric Cl − sensor. To elucidate its working mechanism as a rare example of a single FP with this capability, we tracked the excited-state dynamics of phiYFP using femtosecond transient absorption (fs-TA) spectroscopy and target analysis. The photoexcited neutral chromophore undergoes bifurcated pathways with the twisting-motion-induced nonradiative decay and barrierless excited-state proton transfer. The latter pathway yields a weakly fluorescent anionic intermediate , followed by the formation of a red-shifted fluorescent state that enables the ratiometric response on the tens of picoseconds timescale. The redshift results from the optimized π–π stacking between chromophore Y66 and nearby Y203, an ultrafast molecular event. The anion binding leads to an increase of the chromophore p K a and ESPT population, and the hindrance of conversion. The interplay between these two effects determines the turn-on fluorescence response to halides such as Cl −more »but turn-off response to other anions such as nitrate as governed by different binding affinities. These deep mechanistic insights lay the foundation for guiding the targeted engineering of phiYFP and its derivatives for ratiometric imaging of cellular chloride with high selectivity.« less
  2. Tracking vibrational motions during a photochemical or photophysical process has gained momentum, due to its sensitivity to the progression of reaction and change of environment. In this work, we implemented an advanced ultrafast vibrational technique, femtosecond-stimulated Raman spectroscopy (FSRS), to monitor the excited state structural evolution of an engineered green fluorescent protein (GFP) single-site mutant S205V. This mutation alters the original excited state proton transfer (ESPT) chain. By strategically tuning the Raman pump to different wavelengths (i.e., 801, 539, and 504 nm) to achieve pre-resonance with transient excited state electronic bands, the characteristic Raman modes of the excited protonated (A*) chromophore species and intermediate deprotonated (I*) species can be selectively monitored. The inhomogeneous distribution/population of A* species go through ESPT with a similar ~300 ps time constant, confirming that bridging a water molecule to protein residue T203 in the ESPT chain is the rate-limiting step. Some A* species undergo vibrational cooling through high-frequency motions on the ~190 ps time scale. At early times, a portion of the largely protonated A* species could also undergo vibrational cooling or return to the ground state with a ~80 ps time constant. On the photoproduct side, a ~1330 cm−1 delocalized motion is observed, withmore »dispersive line shapes in both the Stokes and anti-Stokes FSRS with a pre-resonance Raman pump, which indicates strong vibronic coupling, as the mode could facilitate the I* species to reach a relatively stable state (e.g., the main fluorescent state) after conversion from A*. Our findings disentangle the contributions of various vibrational motions active during the ESPT reaction, and offer new structural dynamics insights into the fluorescence mechanisms of engineered GFPs and other analogous autofluorescent proteins.« less
  3. In this study, we used optical spectroscopy to characterize the physical properties of microvesicles released from the thermoacidophilic archaeon Sulfolobus acidocaldarius (Sa-MVs). The most abundant proteins in Sa-MVs are the S-layer proteins, which self-assemble on the vesicle surface forming an array of crystalline structures. Lipids in Sa-MVs are exclusively bipolar tetraethers. We found that when excited at 275 nm, intrinsic protein fluorescence of Sa-MVs at 23 °C has an emission maximum at 303 nm (or 296 nm measured at 75 °C), which is unusually low for protein samples containing multiple tryptophans and tyrosines. In the presence of 10–11 mM of the surfactant n-tetradecyl-β-d-maltoside (TDM), Sa-MVs were disintegrated, the emission maximum of intrinsic protein fluorescence was shifted to 312 nm, and the excitation maximum was changed from 288 nm to 280.5 nm, in conjunction with a significant decrease (>2 times) in excitation band sharpness. These data suggest that most of the fluorescent amino acid residues in native Sa-MVs are in a tightly packed protein matrix and that the S-layer proteins may form J-aggregates. The membranes in Sa-MVs, as well as those of unilamellar vesicles (LUVs) made of the polar lipid fraction E (PLFE) tetraether lipids isolated from S. acidocaldarius (LUVPLFE), LUVsmore »reconstituted from the tetraether lipids extracted from Sa-MVs (LUVMV) and LUVs made of the diester lipids, were investigated using the probe 6-dodecanoyl-2-dimethylaminonaphthalene (Laurdan). The generalized polarization (GP) values of Laurdan in tightly packed Sa-MVs, LUVMV, and LUVPLFE were found to be much lower than those obtained from less tightly packed DPPC gel state, which echoes the previous finding that the GP values from tetraether lipid membranes cannot be directly compared with the GP values from diester lipid membranes, due to differences in probe disposition. Laurdan’s GP and red-edge excitation shift (REES) values in Sa-MVs and LUVMV decrease with increasing temperature monotonically with no sign for lipid phase transition. Laurdan’s REES values are high (9.3–18.9 nm) in the tetraether lipid membrane systems (i.e., Sa-MVs, LUVMV and LUVPLFE) and low (0.4–5.0 nm) in diester liposomes. The high REES and low GP values suggest that Laurdan in tetraether lipid membranes, especially in the membrane of Sa-MVs, is in a very motionally restricted environment, bound water molecules and the polar moieties in the tetraether lipid headgroups strongly interact with Laurdan’s excited state dipole moment, and “solvent” reorientation around Laurdan’s chromophore in tetraether lipid membranes occurs very slowly compared to Laurdan’s lifetime.« less
  4. Enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP)—one of the most widely applied genetically encoded fluorescent probes—carries the threonine-tyrosine-glycine (TYG) chromophore. EGFP efficiently undergoes green-to-red oxidative photoconversion (“redding”) with electron acceptors. Enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (EYFP), a close EGFP homologue (five amino acid substitutions), has a glycine-tyrosine-glycine (GYG) chromophore and is much less susceptible to redding, requiring halide ions in addition to the oxidants. In this contribution we aim to clarify the role of the first chromophore-forming amino acid in photoinduced behavior of these fluorescent proteins. To that end, we compared photobleaching and redding kinetics of EGFP, EYFP, and their mutants with reciprocally substituted chromophore residues, EGFP-T65G and EYFP-G65T. Measurements showed that T65G mutation significantly increases EGFP photostability and inhibits its excited-state oxidation efficiency. Remarkably, while EYFP-G65T demonstrated highly increased spectral sensitivity to chloride, it is also able to undergo redding chloride-independently. Atomistic calculations reveal that the GYG chromophore has an increased flexibility, which facilitates radiationless relaxation leading to the reduced fluorescence quantum yield in the T65G mutant. The GYG chromophore also has larger oscillator strength as compared to TYG, which leads to a shorter radiative lifetime (i.e., a faster rate of fluorescence). The faster fluorescence rate partially compensates for the loss ofmore »quantum efficiency due to radiationless relaxation. The shorter excited-state lifetime of the GYG chromophore is responsible for its increased photostability and resistance to redding. In EYFP and EYFP-G65T, the chromophore is stabilized by π-stacking with Tyr203, which suppresses its twisting motions relative to EGFP.« less
  5. Electrostatic interactions drive molecular assembly and organization in the plasma membrane. Specific protein-lipid interactions, however, are difficult to resolve. Here we report on a unique approach to investigate these interactions with time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy. The experiments were performed on a model membrane system consisting of a supported lipid bilayer with an asymmetric distribution of PIP2 in the upper leaflet of the bilayer. The bilayer also contained nickel-chelating lipids that bind to a histidine-tagged peptide of interest. Both the peptide and the lipid were labeled with orthogonal fluorescent probes, so that diffusion and binding could be measured with two-color, pulsed-interleaved excitation fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy (PIE-FCCS). Our PIE-FCCS data showed significant lipid-peptide cross-correlation between PIP2 lipids and membrane-bound cationic peptides. Cross-correlation is a direct indication of lipid-peptide binding and complexation. Together with mobility data, we quantified the degree of binding, which offers new insight into this class of lipid-peptide interactions. Overall, this is the first report of lipid-peptide cross-correlation by FCCS, and provides a new route to quantifying the interactions between proteins and lipid membranes, a key interface in cell signaling.