Adenylate kinase (AK) is a ubiquitous enzyme that regulates the homeostasis of adenine nucleotides in the cell. AK1β (long form) from murine cells shares the same protein sequence as AK1 (short form) except for the addition of 18 amino acid residues at its N-terminus. It is hypothesized that these residues serve as a signal for protein lipid modification and targeting of the protein to the plasma membrane. To better understand the cellular function of these AK isoforms, we have used several modern fluorescence techniques to characterize these two isoforms of AK enzyme. We fused cytosolic adenylate kinase (AK1) and its isoform (AK1β) with enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP) and expressed the chimera proteins in HeLa cells. Using two-photon excitation scanning fluorescence imaging, we were able to directly visualize the localization of AK1-EGFP and AK1β-EGFP in live cells. AK1β-EGFP mainly localized on the plasma membrane, whereas AK1-EGFP distributed throughout the cell except for trace amounts in the nuclear membrane and some vesicles. We performed fluorescence correlation spectroscopy measurements and photon-counting histogram analysis in specific domains of live cells. For AK1-EGFP, we observed only one diffusion component in the cytoplasm. For AK1β-EGFP, we observed two distinct diffusion components on the plasma membrane. One corresponded to the free diffusing protein, whereas the other represented the membrane-bound AK1β-EGFP. The diffusion rate of AK1-EGFP was slowed by a factor of 1.8 with respect to that of EGFP, which was 50% more than what we would expect for a free diffusing AK1-EGFP. To rule out the possibility of oligomer formation, we performed photon-counting histogram analysis to direct analyze the brightness difference between AK1-EGFP and EGFP. From our analysis, we concluded that cytoplasmic AK1-EGFP is monomeric, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy proved to be a powerful technique for quantitatively studying the mobility of the target protein in live cells. This technology offers advantages in studying protein interactions and function in the cell.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dr. Claudio Schneider, Department of Biologia Celular, Universidad Simon Bolivar, for providing the original AK1 and AK1β plasmids. All the experiments reported in this study were performed at the Laboratory for Fluorescence Dynamics (LFD) in the Department of Physics of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The LFD is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH RR03155) and UIUC.